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J. N. FARQUHAR, M.A., D.Litt. 








NICOL, M.A., D.Litt., Poona. 


M.A., B.Litt., Coimbatore. 

THE VlRA SAIVAS. By W. E. TOMLINSON, Gubbi, Mysore. 

Rajkot, Kathiawar. 

B.A., Calcutta. 

THE KHOJAS. By W. M. HUME, B.A., Lahore. 

P. B. EMMETT, B.A., Kurnool, and S. NICHOLAS, Cuddapah. 

Rajkot, Kathiawar. 

THE BHILS. By D. LEWIS, Jhalod, Panch Mahals. 



THE purpose of this series of small volumes on the 
leading forms which religious life has taken in India is to 
produce really reliable information for the use of all who 
are seeking the welfare of India. Both editors and writers 
desire to work in the spirit of the best modern science, 
looking only for the truth. But, while doing so and 
seeking to bring to the interpretation of the systems under 
review such imagination and sympathy as characterize the 
best study in the domain of religion to-day, they believe 
they are able to shed on their work fresh light drawn from 
the close religious intercourse which they have each had 
with the people who live by the faiths herein described : 
and their study of the relevant literature has in every 
instance been largely supplemented by persistent question- 
ing of those likely to be able to give information. In each 
case the religion described is brought into relation with 
Christianity. It is believed that all readers in India at least 
will recognize the value of this practical method of bring- 
ing out the salient features of Indian religious life. 













THE aim in writing the following pages has been to 
present an accurate and fairly complete account of the 
Chamars. To do so a considerable amount of material 
has been included which, with variations, is the common 
possession of many castes. No attempt, however, has 
been made at a comparative study. The basis of this 
work has been the Chamars of the United Provinces, but 
the Chamars and the leather-workers of other parts of 
India as well have been noted. The writings of Ibbetson, 
Crooke, Rose, Russell and others have been made use of, 
and Census Reports, both Imperial and Provincial, have 
been examined. But apart from facts which could be 
found only in the Census Tables, nearly all the materials 
from these sources, which have been incorporated in this 
book, have been tested in two or more important sections 
of the Chamars and some matters in other sub-castes as 
well, and have been verified or modified to fit this particular 
caste. Similarly, materials from works on anthropology, 
ethnology, animism, and magic have been made the basis 
of investigation. In every instance the questions have 
been, "Is the belief or the practice current among the 
Chamars ?" and " Is this the way the Chamars themselves 
believe and act?" Men of many sub-castes and of all 
sorts have been questioned, farmers, tanners, shoemakers, 
wizards, gurus, and servants. Both the men of the 
villages and the residents of the towns and cities have 
been interrogated. The single aim has been in all cases to 


record the Chamar point of view. The Chamars of the 
north-west have been influenced by the superstitions of 
the Punjab, while those to the east reflect the peculiar 
beliefs of the Vindhyas. On this account uniformity of 
details in names and in beliefs will not be found. But 
the fact that certain practices and some names are not 
traceable in a certain sub-caste or in some locality does 
not invalidate such matters as Chamar facts. The main 
outlines of thought and life are, however, fairly uniform 
throughout the caste. 

It has been decided to use diacritical marks in Indian 
words and to print them in italics only on their first 
occurrence. In the Chamar sub-caste names, however, 
diacritical marks have not been used, except in the case of 
the Chamar, because it has been impossible to obtain 
sufficient accuracy of spelling in many instances. 

Thanks are due to friends in civil and in missionary 
circles for help in collecting data and in criticizing the 
results of investigation. 


January 31, 1920. 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE .. .. .. .. 7 

I. THE CASTE . . . . . . . . . . 11 




VI. THE SPIRIT WORLD .. .. .. ..121 

VII. THE MYSTERIOUS .. .. .. ..158 

VIII. HIGHER RELIGION .. .. .. ..198 

IX. THE OUTLOOK .. . .. .. ..224 

APPENDIX A. TABLES .. .. .. ..248 


ARTICLES . . . . 256 


GLOSSARY . . . . . . . . . 263 

INDEX .. .. .. .. .. ..266 


1. Village Temple in Chamar Mahalla ., ., Frontispiece 

2. Jatiya Chamar Dhariya Chamar.. .. Facing page 22 

3. Chamar Chamar Nalchina Chamar .. .. ,, 23 

4. Pencil Drawings of Shasti and Salona.. .. ,, 66 

5. Pencil Drawings of Abdominal Brand Marks.. ,, 67 

6. Marriage Pole (Suga) Kohbar 78 

7. Pots set in Roof Blackened Pot with White 

Spots Pots around a Bamboo Chamunda's 

Platform .. ,, 79 

8. Pot showing Place of Worship Place of Wor- 

ship, with Offerings .. .. .. .. ,, 146 

9. Shrine of Nat Baba Kalki and her Court- 

Shrine of Hem Raj ,, 147 

10. Pots used as Offerings Pot and Evil Eye .. ,, 162 

11. Pencil Drawings of Magic Symbols .. .. ,, 163 

12. iv Narayan Mahant Devil Priest , 212 

13. Kuril Chamar Jaiswar Chamar , 213 



THE tanners of leather, the preparers of skins, the 
manufacturers of leather articles, and the makers of shoes 
belong to a well defined class in the Indian social order. 
Most of these workers, in Upper India, are to-day included 
under the general term Chamdr. This occupational group 
may be traced back to very early times. Tanners (char- 
mamnd) are mentioned in the Rig Veda, 1 in the later 
Vedic literature, 2 and in fhe Brahmanas. 8 Tanning, mid, 
mnd, is also spoken of in the Rig Veda, 4 and certain details 
of stretching 5 and wetting 6 hides probably refer to the 
process of manufacture. Ox-hides were used in the 
pressing of the soma, 7 and ox-hides 8 and antelope and 
tiger skins 10 were used in sacramental and ceremonial rites. 
The use of skins for clothing is mentioned in the Satapatha 

VIII. 5, 38. 
Vaj. Sariih. 30, 15. 

Tait. Br. III. 4, 13, 1; Ait. Br. V. 32, Carmanya (leather 
work) . 

VIII. 55, 3. 

Sat. Br. II. 1.1.9. 

R. V. 1.85.5. 

R. V. X. 94. 9 ; X. 116. 4. 

A. V. XII. 3. Sat.Br. VII. 3. 2. 1-4. Gobhila Grh. S II. 

3. 3; II. 4. 6; Hiran. Grh. S.; Apas. Grh. S. II. 
6. 8; gankha. Grh. S. I. 16. 1; AV Grh. S. I. 8. 9 ; I. 14. 3; IV. 6 
4 ; Paras. Grh. S.' I. 8. 10. 

A. V. XI. 1. 8; Sat. Br. I. 1. 4. 3 ; I. 2. 1. 14 ; I. 9. 2. 33 ; 
III. 2. 1. 1-9 ; III. 3. 4. 1. 8 ; III. 6. 3. 18 ; VI. 2. 2. 39 ; XI. 8. 

4. 3; XII. 8.3.3, 9, 21. Skins : Baud. II. 10. 17. 20 ; III. 1. 11, 18. 

10 A. V. IV. 8. 4 ; Sat. Br, V. 3. 5. 3. V. 4. 1. 9, U ; V, 4. 2, 6; 
V, 4. 4. 2, 


BrShmana 1 and in other early literature. 2 The M,ruts 
wore deer skins, 8 and the wild ascetics seem to have been 
clothed in skins/ The use presupposes the preparation 
of skins. 

The word leather (hide) charman, charma, is known 
in both the older and the later portions of the Rig Veda,* 
in the Atharva Veda, 6 in the books of the Yajur Vedic 
schools, 7 in the Brahmanas, 8 and in the later literature. 9 
In these books we find references to the thong, yoktra 
used for yoking the chariot or cart ; the bow-string, jyd, 
made of ox-hide 11 ; reins of leather ; leather bags, 12 driti and 
dhmdta, for holding liquids ; leather bottles, 13 bhastrd; and 
thongs used for couches, vardhra t 14 for door fastenings, 
paricarmanya and for bridles, syuman. From the 
Mahabharat 17 we learn that leather was used for the hand- 
guard for the bow ; that the hands and fingers were pro- 
tected with leather ; that the soldier used a shield made 
of ox-hide or of bear-skin : that he had a cuirass and a 

* V. 2. 1. 21. 24. 

VasUh. XI. 61-63 ; Apa. I. 1. 2. 40 ; I. 1. 3. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 ; 
Baud. I. 6. 13. 13; Guat. I. 16; Manu XI. 109; Inst. of Vishnu, 
XXVII. 20 (antelope, tiger, and he-goat.) 

R. V I. 166. 10. 

R. V 



f E.g. 

X. 136. 2. 

III. 60. 2 ; IV. 13. 4 ; I. 85. 5 ; I. 110. 8 ; I. 161. 7. 

V. 8. 13; X. 9. 2; XI. 1.9. 

Tait. Sarfih. III. 1. 7. 1 ; VI. 1. 9. 2. 

E. g. Tait. Br. II. 7. 2. 2. 

* Vasish. III. 53 ; Baud. Grh. 8. I. 1. 1. 10 ; I. 5. 8. 38, 43 ; 
Gaut.Grh.S. 1.33. 

< R. V. III. 33. 13; V. 33, 2; A. V. III. 30. 6; VII. 78. 1 ; 
Tait. Sarfih. I. 6. 4. 3 ; Tait. Br. III. 3. 3. 3 ; Sat. Br. I. 3. 1. 13 ; 
VI. 4. 3. 7. Brh. (Minor Law Book) XI. 16. 

" R. V. VI. 75. 3 ; A. V. I. 1. 3. There arc many passages. 

R. V. I. 191. 10 ; IV. 51. 1. 3 ; V. 83. 7 ; VI. 48. 18 ; VI. 103. 
3; VIII. 5. 19; VIII. 9. 18 ; A. V. VII. 18. 1 ; Tait. Saihh. I. 8. 
19, 1 ; Vaj Saihh. XXVI. 18. 19 ; Tait. Br. I. 8, 3, 4 ; Pane. Br. V. 
10. 2. d^ti ; R. V. VII. 89. 2, dkmfita. These used also as bellows. 

gat. Br. I. I, 2, 7 ; I. 6. 3. 16. 

** A. V. XIV, 1, 60 ; Sat. Br. V. 4. 4. 1. 

" Klaus h. Br. VI 12; Sank. Ar. II. 1. 

R. V. III. 61. 4. See also Manu VIII. 292. 

" " The Social and Military Position of the Ruling Caste in 
Ancient India at Represented by the Sanskrit Epic." Hopkins in 
]. A. O. S. Vol. XIII. See especially section IV. 


breast-plate of leather ; and that his body-armour was made 
of iron and leather. We find also that sinews were used 
to bind the feathers upon the arrow, and that the sword 
was sheathed in leather. The war chariot was protected 
with shields of leather. The box of the chariot was fixed 
to the axle with thongs of leather. The horses were 
yoked to the pole of the chariot with leather straps. The 
reins were of leather. Sometimes the horses were even 
covered with leather robes which served as armour. 
Drums, especially the great kettle-drums, were fashioned 
with leather heads. 

The old literature also knows the shoemaker, carmakdra, 
charmakrit, padukara, pddukrit. Shoes made of skins and 
of leather, are mentioned in the Brahmanas, 1 in Manu 2 and 
the older law books, 8 in the Mahabharat,*in the Ramyana, 8 
and in the Vishnu Purana. 

Thus there were well known and fully developed in an- 
cient India, the occupations of tanner and leather worker. 

Probably from early Aryan times the village life in 
India was organized somewhat as it is to-day, with its 
cultivators resident within the village, and the lower 
orders of labourers attached to its outskirts. 7 To this 
latter class belonged the common labourers and those who, 
on account of the disgusting aspects of their work and 
life, were deemed to be unclean and untouchable. The 
Aryan came as a conqueror, and he retained for himself 
the religious and the military functions of the social order, 
along with the privileges belonging to the leisured class. 

Sat. Br. V. 4. 3. 19 (made of boar's skin). 

8 IV. 66, 74. Commentator says, " Colloquially, /*, leather 
shoe.'* See- R&i&radhiikntdeva's Sabdkalpadruma (Lexicon) under 
padukd, Vol. II. p. 111. 

Apas. I. 2. 7. 5-; Gaut. IX. 5, 45. 

E.g., II. 1915. III. 16593 ; XIII. 4642. See Monier-Williams, 
Sanskrit Dictionary, under " updnah " and paduka." 

9 Pdduka, ?**, leather shoe. Ayodhyftkan<Ja, 112. 29. 

II. 21. 

v See Baden-Powell, The Origin and Growth of Village Com- 
munities in India, p. 9, note 1. He says that low-caste menials of 
northern villages are not part of the village community. The village 
community consists of invaders and colonists, the landlords of the 
village area. See also note 1, next page. 


So, as time went on, he became, more and more, the priest 
and noble, the great landed proprietor and the ranchman. 
The conquered people, kept in subjection, performed the 
more lowly tasks of life. According to Hopkins, 1 the 
VaiSya (the people-caste) and the^udra (the serving-caste) 
formed the strata between the ruling and priestly castes on 
the one hand and the helots (the most depressed classes, 
the outcastes, the Dasyu) on the other. A casual 
reading of the law books reveals the fact that a fairly sharp 
line of distinction was drawn between the general com- 
munity in the village and the helots, who lived beyond the 
village border. 2 Manu's famous passage is: "All those 
tribes in this world, which are excluded from (the com- 
munity of) those born from the mouth, the arms, the 
thighs, and the feet (of Brahman), are called Dasyus, 
whether they speak the language of the Mlecchas (barba- 
rians) or that of the Aryas." 8 This excluded group was 
composed of mixed castes and of aborigines. Some such 
general term as Chanddla was applied to those who were 
of polluted Aryan blood, and that of Dasyu (slave, native) 
to those whom the Aryas had conquered. Sometimes 
these two words are used as synonyms. 4 The Dasyu was 
looked upon as inferior and unclean even in Vedic times. 6 

* Essay on Caste. 

8 There are many passages pointing to this : 

(a) Showing different from Sudra : Apas. 1. 3. 9* 9, 15 ; II. 4. 
9. 5 ; Baud. I. 5. 9. 7 ; I. 5. 11. 36 ; II. 1. 2. 18 ; II. 2. 3, 40-42 ; 
Inst. Vishnu III. 32 ; V. 10, VIII. 2 ; XVI ; XXXV. 3 ; LI. 11, Gau-t. 
II. 35, " all castes excepting ... and outcastes.' 1 IV. 27, 28 ; XIV. 
30; XV. 24; XXIII. 32. Vasish. XI. 9; XIII. 51 ; XIV. 2; XV. 
13, 17 ; XVIII. 18 ; XX. 17 ; XXIII. 33, 34; Manu III. 239 ; IV. 
79; IV. 213; VIII. 66, 68; XI. 224. Inst. Vishnu XVI.7-14. 
Clandalas must live out of the town . . ." LVII. 4;*LVII. 14. LI. 
57; LXXXI. 16, 17. Baudh. II. 3. 6. 22. 

(b) Showing that they belong outside the village: 

Manu X. 51, " but the dwellings of Chandalas and Svapachas 
shall be outside the village " ; Inst. of Vishnu XLIV. 9, calling them 
untouchable; Inst. Vishnu LIV. 15, "of Chandalas and of other low 
castes that dwell outside 'the village 1 ' ; Manu, X. 39, showing that some 
were excluded from Aryan society. 

X. 45. 4 E.g., Manu I. 131. 

Baines, On Certain Features of Social Differentiation in India* 
J. R. A. S. 1894, Art. XIX. p,664. 


He was never admitted to the Aryan community. 1 Yet 
these classes had a sort of landed right, and they were 
useful in times of disease. Acquainted with primitive 
superstitions, and in many instances being the officiants in 
magical rites, in exorcism, and in disease transference, they 
$erved, in these capacities, even the higher castes. 2 With 
this community on the outskirts of the village the tanner 
and leather-worker were grouped. 

Occupationally to-day the Chamar corresponds to the 
charmamna or charmamla and the charmakara of the past. 

Some Brahmanical tradition gives the Chamar a respect- 
able ancestry and attributes his out-caste condition to the 
violation of Aryan laws. According to Manu, 8 the 
Karavara y or leather-worker, has the following ancestry. 

Other reports give him a less respectable pedigree, for he 
is said also to be the offspring of a Chandal woman (one 
of the most despised of society, having a Brahman! 
mother and a Sudra father) by a man of the fisherman 
caste. 7 And, again, he is said to be the son of a Malldh 
(boatman) and a Chandal. 8 But evidently none of these 
traditions account for the Chamar. At most they claim 
for him a higher birth than seems at all probable. 

Much current tradition ascribes to him a good ancestry. 
For example, men say that, in the beginning, there was 
but one family of men and they were all of the highest 
caste. They worked in the fields, and followed other 
callings. In this family there were four brothers. It so 
happened that a cow died one day, and the body lay in the 
yard until evening. Since no one could be found to 
remove the carcass, the three older brothers agreed that 
their younger brother should carry away the body, and 

1 Ibid. p. 667. * Ibid. pp. 664, 5. X. 36. * Manu X. 8. 
Manu X. 17. Manu X. 16. 

T Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces 
and Oudh, Vol. II. p. 169. 

'Elliot Memoirs, North-Western Provinces of India, Vol. I..p.70, 


that, afterwards, when he had bathed, they would receive 
him on the old footing of equality. To this he agreed. 
After much pulling and hauling, he managed to drag the 
carcass to the jungle. When he returned from his bath, 
his brothers refused to receive him, but compelled him to 
live at a distance from them. He made a great fuss about 
it, but his complaints were of no avail. They told him 
that henceforth he was to do the work of a Chamar, that 
is, to skin the animals that died, and to make leather 
and implements of leather. The brothers promised to 
take care of him in return for these services. Thus 
the Chamar caste arose. It happened on another day that 
a buffalo died. This Chamar then said to his brothers, 
"I am not strong enough to remove this carcass." The 
body lay in the yard until noon, when it so happened that 
Siva, who had come down to look after the welfare of 
men, passed that way. The three brothers complained to 
him that the Chamar was unable to remove the body of 
the buffalo. Then the latter appealed to Siva for help. 
The great god then said to the brothers, "It is true that 
your brother cannot, unassisted, remove the carcass. 
Let one of you step forward and help him." The brothers 
all protested. Siva, then commanded the Chamar to 
collect a pile of refuse (kurd.) When this was done, 
Siva directed him to urinate upon it, and, as he obeyed, 
. straightway, from the heap, a strong man arose. From 
this man the Kuril sub-caste of Chamars sprang. 

Another legend, current among the Agarwala Baniyas, 
relates that there was once a Raja who had two daughters, 
Chamu and Bamft, each of whom had a son of great 
physical powers. One day an elephant died in the Raja's 
grounds, and, as he did not wish to cut its body to pieces, 
he inquired if there was anyone strong enough to carry 
the carcass away and bury it. Chmu's son performed the 
task, whereupon B&mft's son declared him an out-caste. 1 

1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh> Vol. II. p. 170. For other forms of the same legend see Rose, 
A Glossary of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and the North-West 
Frontier Province, Vol. II. p. 148. See also Crooke, Tribes and 
Caste/ of thf North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Vol. I. p. 92, 


According to a third legend, five brothers, Brahmans, 
while out walking one day, saw the carcass of a cow by 
the roadside. Four of the brothers passed it by, but the 
fifth removed the body. Thereupon he was excommuni- 
cated by his brothers. His descendants continue to remove 
the carcasses of cattle. 1 

These traditions, both ancient and modern, do not, 
however, account for the origin of the Chamar. They 
merely show how some persons were degraded into the 
leather-working group. The caste itself had its origin in 
that occupational class on the borders of the ancient 
village. This group, essentially non-Aryan, has maintained 
itself through the centuries in its traditional occupation. 
But the caste is to-day a very large one, and it would be 
difficult to account for it merely on the ground that it has 
been self-propagating. As now constituted, the caste is 
made up of a heterogeneous group of peoples. This is 
illustrated, in the first place, by the fact that most of the 
sub-castes of the Chamars are found in fairly well defined 
areas, and these may be described as local groups. Further- 
more, some sub-caste names, such as Azamgarhiya Banau- 
dhiya, Kalkattiya, Ujjaini, Saksena, Chandariya, Guliya, 
Aharwar, and Jhusiya, are specifically local; while other 
sub-caste names, such as, Gangapari, Purabiya, Uttaraha, 
and Dakkhinaha, point to definite geographical origins. 
Some of the local groups of Chamars are of recent origin. 
For example, there were no Chamars in the Gorakhpur 
District four hundred years ago. 8 

Furthermore, there are good reasons for believing that 
the caste has received large recruitments from above. 
This is illustrated by the case of the Gorakhpur Chamars. 8 
Again, there are some rather pronounced variations in the 
features of members of the caste. This may be illustrated 
from places as widely separated as Ballia and Meerut. It 
has been noted that many Chamar women have fine fea- 
tures, and that some Chamars have a better cast of features 

* Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Odh t Vol. II. p. 170. 

1 Gorakhpur District Gazetteer, 1909, p. 94. Ibid. p. 94. 


than is at all common in the social level in which they are 
found. This may be explained in part by illicit relations 
which Chamar women have had with men of higher castes; 
and partly by certain social and religious customs that have 
prevailed extensively, although now traces of the practices 
are somewhat difficult to discover. 1 But such explanations 
are not sufficient to account for widespread characteristics 
of the higher sort. The Jatiya, for example, is of a higher 
physical type than some other sub-castes and of lighter 
complexion. The explanation in his case may be that 
some occupational demand drew Jats into this lower form 
of work ; or, more likely, that some pressure or penalty 
resulted in their degradation. Some Jatiyas claim to be 
descendants of Jats, and many of this sub-caste do resemble 
these taller and fairer complexioned neighbors. Such 
sections of the caste as possess markedly superior features 
must be accounted for through conquest. The subjuga- 
tion of tribe after tribe has been a recurring phenomenon in 
India. These movements have occurred over wide areas, 
and over limited portions of the country as well. Local 
history fully illustrates this fact, and we may picture the 
flux of rising and falling tribes and clans under repeated 
foreign and local waves of conquest, and the consequent 
reconstruction, in more or less detail, of the social distri- 
bution of races and clans as a fairly constant process. 
This means that the fixed status of an occupational group 
may go hand in hand with the repeated recruitment of the 
group by those who have been degraded from better posi- 
tions. In some instances this may mean that certain clans 
were unable to maintain their identity and prestige with 
the changing erder, and that consequently they have sunk 
to lower levels. These contentions are borne out by many 
got, or family, and sub-caste names ; for example, Banau- 
dhiya,Ujjaini,Chandhariya, Sarwariya 9 Kandujiya, Chauhan, 
Chandel, Saksena, Sakarwar, Bhadarauriya, and Bundela. 
These are names of Rajput clans, and, as applied to the 
Chamar, suggest dependency. This may mean also more 

1 See under Marriage ; also Discussions, Representative Council 
of Missions of the United Provinces , 1915, p. 7, 


or less racial admixture, as in the case of the latiya. Sub- 
caste names such as Kori and Turkiya point also to the 
wide range of racial elements in the caste. 

On the other hand, there have been large accessions 
to the caste from below. Got and sub-caste names 
show that many Chamars have sprung from the Dom, 
the Kanjar, the Habura, the Kol, the Jaiswar* and 
other casteless tribes. This movement of peoples up- 
wards through successive stages is a well-known pheno- 

The caste, then, has been recruited from numerous 
sources. Many people and even whole sections of tribes 
have risen up from the lower levels and entered the caste, 
and this process is still going on. On the other hand, various 
political changes have resulted in the subjugation of large 
groups, who consequently were forced into this lower 
stratum. Still, the caste is predominantly non-Aryan in 
character. This is accounted for by the fact that to the 
basal group, which was of aboriginal origin, large recruit- 
ments have been made from below. On the other hand, 
it may be that environment 2 and food have played a large 
part in modifying the physical characteristics of those who 
have been brought into the caste from above. The basal 
group has always been large enough to assimilate its recruits 
to its own standards of temper and character. In the 
Chamar caste, there is a close and historically complete 
contact with Indian village life running very far back, 
and to-day it occupies a place in the social and economic 
order that agrees very well with that held from early times. 

Although he does not meet any of the determining 
tests of Hinduism, 8 the Chamar is a Hindu. In the 
Census Report for 1901, * certain castes which fall below 
the twice-born were grouped as follows : Those from 
whose hands Brahmans will take water ; those from whose 

1 See Nesfield, A Brief Review of the Caste System of the 
North-West Provinces and Oudh, p. 22. 

* See Census, India, 1911, Vol. I. pt. 1. pp. 383, 384. 

* See Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, pp. 121. 122. 
He does not usually call himself a Hindu. 

4 See Census Report, United Provinces, 1901, pp. 216 ff. 



hands some of the higher castes will take water ; those 
from whom the twice-born cannot take water, but who 
are not untouchable ; those whose touch defiles, but who 
do not eat beef ; and those who eat beef and vermin and 
whose touch defiles. In this last class the Chamar belongs. 
He occupies an utterly degraded position in the village life, 
and he is regarded with loathing and disgust by the higher 
castes. His quarters (chamrauti, chamarwdrd) abound in 
all kinds of abominable filth. His foul mode of living is 
proverbial. Except when it is absolutely necessary, a clean- 
living Hindu will not visit his part of the village. The 
author of Hindu Castes and Sects says that the very touch 
of a Chamar renders it necessary for a good Hindu to 
bathe with all his clothes on. 1 The Chamar's very name 
connects him with the carcasses of cattle. Besides, he 
not only removes the skins from the cattle that have died, 
but also he eats the flesh. The defilement and degrada- 
tion resulting from these acts are insurmountable. The 
fact that the Chamar is habitually associated in thought 
with these practices may partially explain why the large 
non-leather-working sections of the caste are still rated as 

Chamars, including Mochis, are scattered well over 
the " Aryo-Dravidian " tract, and leather-workers, under 
one name or another, are found in nearly every part of 
India. Chamars are most numerous in the United Pro- 
vinces, and in the bordering areas of Bihar on the East 
and of the Punjab on the north-west. The census figures 
for 1911, for all India, show the Brahmans as the first 
caste in point of numbers, and the leather-workers as a 
whole, or even the Chamar-Chambhar taken alone, as the 
second. The Rajput is the third caste. This estimate 
excludes in calculation the Sheikh Mussulmans, who 
number 32,131,342 and who are evidently not a " caste." 
In Bengal the Chamar-Mochi is the sixth caste, the 
Brahman being the second, and the Kayastha the third ; 
in Bihar and Orissa the Chamar is the eighth or seventh, 

1 P. 267. It may be of interest to know that in Baluch Mochis 
and Chamars are classed as Jats. See Risley, Peoples of India, p. 121. 


according as he is counted alone, or with the Mochi ; in 
the Central Provinces he is the third caste ; in the 
Central India Agency the second, with the Brahman 
first ; in the Punjab he is the fourth, or the third if the 
Mochi be counted, while the Jat is the first and the Rajput 
second ; in Rajaputana he is third, with the lat first and 
the Brahman second ; in the United Provinces he is the 
first caste in point of numbers, with the Brahman second. 
Another striking fact is that in the United Provinces the 
Chamars are almost as numerous as the Mussulmans. 
Furthermore, the Chamar is increasing in numbers. In 
the United Provinces, during the twenty years ending in 
1901, the increase was nearly ten percent. ; and during the 
last decade, 2.4 per cent. In the last thirty years the 
increase has been 12.2 per cent. 1 

The tables 2 show that the Chamars are scattered fairly 
evenly over the United Provinces. Numerically they are 
strongest in the Gorakhpur and Basti Districts ; but, 
taken in proportion to the rest of the population, they are 
the largest element in the community in Saharanpur 
and in the remainder of the Meerut Division. In the 
Saharanpur District every fifth man is a Chamar, while 
in the Meerut Division seventeen per cent, of the popula- 
tion are Chamars. Taking the United Provinces as a 
whole, every eighth man is a Chamar. 

The sub-castes 3 of the Chamar are very numerous, 
1,156 being returned in 1891. 4 While these returns may 
not be accurate, and while numerous names are but 
variable pronunciations and spellings of others, still the 
number of sub-divisions of Chamars is very large. Like 

* Hindu Chamars, 19116,076,000; 19015,932,000; 1891 
5,854,000 ; 18815,413,000 ; The figures for Mussulman and Arya 
Chamars are not given. Chamar Sikhs numbered 118,000 in 1911, 
as over against 260,000 in 1891. The figures are in 1,000's only. 
Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, pp. 376-377. 

* See Appendix A. 

1 This section on the sub-castes is based upon the works of Risley, 
Sherring, Ibbetson, Crooke, Rose, Russell, and others, and upon 
independent investigations. 

* Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. II. article " Chamar/ 1 


many other castes they are said to be divided into seven 
principal sub-castes. The names of these traditional seven 
vary in different places and their order of respectability 
varies also. 

Among all the sections of the Chamar of the United 
Provinces, two great sub-castes predominate. These are 
the JATIYA and the JAISWAR. The former, which includes 
more than twenty per cent, of the total Chamar population, 
is found almost entirely in the north and west of the 
Provinces, in the Meerut, Agra and Rohilkhand Divisions, 
being most numerous in Meerut, Agra, Moradabad, and 
Badaun Districts ; and the latter, numbering about one 
million persons, are found chiefly in the Allahabad, Benares, 
Gorakhpur, and Fyzabad Divisions, being most numerous 
in the Jaunpur, Azamgarh, Mirzapur, and Fyzabad Dis- 
tricts. These two sub-castes make up nearly two-fifths of 
the whole Chamar population. Both make claims to 
superior standing ; and the Jatiya can reasonably claim to 
be the highest of all the sub-castes of the Chamars. 
Among them there are many who are well-to-do. The 
laiswar makes claims to superiority, and bases them upon 
his refusal to do certain degrading tasks that usually fall to 
the lot of the Chamar. Yet, where they are most numer- 
ous, they undoubtedly share in all of the degrading work, 
and practise all the disgusting habits characteristic of the 

The Jatiya, or Jatua, is found in large numbers, not 
only in the central and upper Doab, and in Rohilkhand, but 
also in the Punjab in the neighbourhood of Delhi and 
Gurgaon. He is a field-labourer, a cultivator, a dealer in 
hides, and a maker of shoes. Some of the cultivating 
sections of this sub-caste do not make leather, and do not 
allow their women to practise midwifery. Some of the 
shoemaking sections do not mend shoes. In some places, 
notably in the Punjab, the latiya works in horse and 
camel hides, and refuses to touch the skins of cattle. 1 
Some of the dealers in hides are wealthy, and live as com- 
fortably as do high-caste Hindus. About one half of the 

1 Rose, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and 
North-West Frontier Province, Vol. II. p. 149. 








sub-caste eat carrion. Some, at least, refuse to eat beef or 

Two suggestions have been made as to their origin. 
Some say that their name is derived from the word jat, 
meaning a camel-driver ; others, that their name connects 
them with the Jat caste. It is sometimes said that they 
are descendants from the marriages of Jats with Chamars. 
Nesfield suggests that they may be an occupational 
offshoot from the Yadu tribe from which Krishna came. 
Although the Jatiya of the Punjab works in camel and 
horse hides, which is an abomination to the Chandar, 1 he 
employs Gaur Brahmans, and is, for this reason, in that 
part of India, considered the highest sub-caste of Chamars. 

The Jaiswar is found almost exclusively in the eastern 
part of the Provinces. From his ranks many menial ser- 
vants and house-servants for Europeans are recruited in 
the towns and cities. Many are grasscuts and grooms ; 
indeed many of the grooms (sals) from Calcutta to 
Peshawar are laiswars of launpur and Azamgarh. Some 
of this sub-caste are tanners, some of them make shoes, 
and many are day-labourers. Some Jaiswars were with 
the troops that fought with Clive at Plassey. It is said 
that they have a custom which requires that they, because 
of an oath in the name of the goddess Mai Ram (Kali), 
carry burdens on their heads but not on their shoulders. 
They worship the halter as a fetish, and consider it an 
act of sacrilege to tie up a dog with it, because the dog is 
unclean. For the most part they eat carrion and pork, 
but their leading men do not. In some places Jaiswar 
women practise midwifery. 

The details of certain other important sub-castes of 
the Chamars, as found in the United Provinces, together 
with supplementary notes bearing on other areas, are 
given below. 2 Of these sub-castes the more important 
have been chosen in the order of their numerical strength. 

1 See page 28. 

These figures have been based upon Crooke's notes on the 
Census of 1891. No later data are available. See his Tribes aud 
Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh> table at end of 
article " Chamar." 


The numbers in the first eight sub-castes enumerated 
range from more than 400,000 to just under 100,000. 

The CHAMAR Chamar is found almost exclusively in the 
Meerut and Rohilkhand Divisions. He is most numerous 
in the Saharanpur, Bijnor, and Muzaffarnagar Districts, 
and he is found in considerable numbers in the Meerut, 
Moradabad, and Bulandshar Districts. He is counted 
amongst the lowest of all the sub-castes. In fact 
the tanning sections of the Chamars, of whom the 
Chamar is one, seem to occupy the lowest level wherever 
they are found. He is a cultivator, a shoe-maker, and a 
tanner. His women practise midwifery. He eats pork. 

The DOHAR is a numerous group of the Chamars> found 
in a section running right across the Provinces, from the 
Districts of Philibhit and Kheri, through those of 
Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Farrukhabad, Cawnpore, and 
Etawah, to Jalaun. He is most numerous in the Hardoi 
District, where he forms more than half of the Chamar 
population. He does not keep pigs, but he eats pork. 

The KURIL is found chiefly in the Allahabad and 
Lucknow Divisions. He is most numerous in the Unao 
District where he comprises nearly the whole of the 
Chamar community. He is found in considerable 
numbers in the neighbouring Districts of Cawnpore, 
Lucknow, and Rae Bareilly, and in small numbers in 
nearly every district in the Provinces, being in this respect, 
with the exception of the Jaiswar, the most widely distri- 
buted sub-caste in the Provinces. He claims to have been 
brought to Lucknow from Fatehpur Haswa several 
generations ago. He is a leather-worker and field- 
labourer. He keeps pigs and eats carrion. He will not 
touch dead camels or horses. The Kurils who live to the 
west of the Ganges have no social intercourse with those 
who live on the other side of that stream. The two 
sections do not intermarry. The women of the former 
wear skirts and those of the latter wear loin-cloths 

The PURBIYA numbers nearly 300,000. The name is 
geographical. He is found chiefly in the Sitapur and 
Kheri Districts, being most numerous in the former. 

THfe CASTE 25 

There are fairly large numbers of this sub-caste in the 
territory lying to the east of these districts. Few are 
found in the western parts of the Provinces. 

The KORI or KOLI Chamar is found almost exclusively 
in the Gorakhpur and Lucknow Divisions. About 
100,000 are found in the Sultanpur District alone, while 
more than 50,000 are found in the District of Basti, and 
more than 80,000 in the two Districts of Fyzabad and 
Partabgarh. He is a shoe-maker, a field-labourer, a groom, 
and a weaver. 1 He will not touch dead camels or horses. 
In the Punjab, where he does not work in leather, and 
where he does not perform menial tasks, he is called a 
Chamar-Julaha, i.e., Chamar weaver. The Kori (Weaver) 
often lives alongside of him, and was undoubtedly formerly 
a Chamar. In some places people still remember when the 
Kori and the Kori Chamar ate together and intermarried. 
In Mirzapur the Kori is known as Chamar-Kori. 

The AHARWAR is found chiefly in Bundelkhand, where 
in some districts, as in Jhansi and in Hamirpur, he com- 
prises about ninety per cent, of the Chamar population. 
There are important communities of Aharwars in the 
Districts of Farukhabad, Hardoi, and Bulandshahr. In 
some places, he does not make leather, nor does his wife 
practise midwifery. Many Aharwars are cultivators, and 
some are petty contractors. 

The DHUSIYA or JHUSIYA is found almost exclusively in 
the Benares Division and in the adjoining District of 
Gorakhpur. He is most numerous in the District of 
Ballia - where he forms about sixty-five per cent, of the 
Chamar population. Nearly forty-five per cent, of this 
sub-caste are found in the Ballia District alone. The 
only other Districts where he is found in considerable 
numbers are Benares and Gorakhpur. In the Ballia and 
Benares Districts are found nearly three quarters of the 
whole sub-caste. Colonies of Dhusiyas are found in the 
Districts of Saharanpur and Bulandshahr and there are 
large settlements df them in the Punjab. Although he 

1 Sherring's Tribes and Castes, Vol. I. p. 393. See also Elliot, 
Memoirs, North-Western Provinces of India, Vol. I. 70. 


is a shoe and harness maker, he is chiefly a day labourer. 
Some of the sub-caste are tanners. He sometimes serves 
as a musician. House-servants of Europeans are often 
from this sub-caste. Occasionally he cultivates his own 
fields. In the east, e.g., in Bihar, he keeps pigs and 
chickens. His women practise midwifery. In the 
Punjab he is counted as a sub-division of the Mochi. 

The CHAMKATIYA is found chiefly in the Bareilly 
District, where nearly eighty per cent, of the sub-caste is 
found. There are a few thousands, all told, found in a 
section running through the Districts of Fatehpur, Rae- 
Bareilly, Sultanpur, Fyzabad, and Basti. Chamkatiyas 
are scarcely found elsewhere. It is said that from this 
sub-caste both Nona Chamari and Rai Das came. 

The DOSADH or DUSADH, found in the Lucknow and 
Gorakhpur Divisions and in the lower Doab, is a weaver, 
a groom, and a field-labourer. He keeps pigs. In Bengal 
the Dosadh claims to be of higher standing than the 
Chamar. Formerly, in the east, he was reckoned as a 
Chamar, but now he assumes an independent position. 
He no longer works in leather, nor does he eat carrion, 
nor does his wife practise midwifery. He often works as a 
house-servant. He is on very friendly terms with the 
Chamars and lives next to them in the villages. Many 
Dosadhs have gone to the cities to work in the factories. 

From the AZAMGARHYA, or BIRHIRUYA, of the 
Gorakhpur Division, come many servants of Europeans. 
They also tend swine. 

The KAIYAN of Bundelkhand and Sagar is sometimes 
rated as a criminal. He is related to the Bohra, a trader 
and usurer of Brahman, or Rajput, origin. 

There are some groups of Chamars that are often 
spoken of as sub-castes, which are not strictly such. 
The RANGIYA is a good example. It is an occupational 
division of certain sub-castes. As the name suggests, he 
is a dyer, or tanner, of leather, and, as such, is a low 
type of Chamar. Some of them make shoes. Another 
group that is often spoken of as a sub-caste is the RAI 
DASI. With the possible exception of those in the Karnal and 
its neighbourhood, this group is not a sub-caste. In some 


parts of the provinces all Chamars call themselves Rai 
Dasis, and many bearing this name are found as religious 
groups in a number of sub-castes. Followers of Rai Das 
are found all over the provinces. There are other religi- 
ous bodies amongst the Chamars which are not sub-castes. 

On the other hand the SATNAMIS, a religious group 
in the Central Provinces, have become practically a new 
sub-caste. These Chamars, who make up the largest and 
oldest Chamar group in this part of India, have given up 
leather work entirely, and have become cultivators. Many 
of them have tenant rights, and a number of them have 
obtained villages. Likewise the ALAKHGIR, a group 
formed by Lalglr, has become a separate sub-caste. 

While it is unnecessary to name all the sub-castes of 
the Chamars, a number of groups may be added to those 
already enumerated. The MANGATIYA is a beggar who 
receives alms from the Jaiswars only. Once a year he 
makes his rounds, taking a pice and a roti from each house. 
The CHANDAUR makes but does not mend shoes, and 
sews canvas and coarse cloth. The NONA Chamar is 
found in the neighbourhood of Cawnpore. The 
DHENGAR and the NIKHAR, tribes of the Etawah 
District, are Chamars. The former serves as a groom, but 
the latter does not. Their wives do not practise midwifery. 
The SAKARWARS are tanners, shoe-makers and cultivators. 
They keep pigs. The KAROL is a small tribe of shoe- 
makers found in the Bahraich, Aligarh, Bulandshahr, and 
Benares Districts. Then, there are the DHUMAN, DOMAR, 
PACHHWAHAN. Among the minor sub-castes may be noted 
the GOLE of Etawah ; the DOLIDHAUWA, or palanquin- 
bearer of Partabgarh ; the DHUNYAL-JULAHA, who 
makes cloth ; the LASHKARIYA, who makes shoes, often 
of the English style, and the GHARAMI, of Dehra Dun, 
who is a thatcher. The RAJ or RAJ-MISTRI, found every- 
where in the United Provinces, a purely occupational caste 
of masons and bricklayers, is largely recruited from the 
Chamars. This caste is of comparatively recent origin. 
The CHAIN, who is in some areas, e.g., in Ballia, 
rated as a Chamar, is also considered a separate caste. 


He is described as a criminal, a thief, a swindler, an 
impostor, and a pick-pocket. He is decidedly the criminal 
among the Chamars, making long expeditions with the 
object of looting and robbing. He is a terror to law-abid- 
ing citizens and a thorn in the flesh of the police. He is 
often under police supervision. The DHANUK is sometimes 
classed as a Chamar. 1 He eats carrion and the leavings 
of food from other castes, and his women act as midwives. 

There are a number of minor castes that work in 
leather. The DAFALI makes the drums called tabld and 
tdla, and the BHAND, or jester, makes the drums called 
daikkd. There are also the DHOR, who makes buckets and 
dyes leather ; the KALAN, who cobbles shoes and makes 
tents ; the DABGAR, found in Bengal and in the east of the 
United Provinces, as well as in the Punjab, who makes 
large raw-hide vessels, beaten raw camel's hide bottles for 
ghee and oil, and also drum-heads, leather sheaths for 
swords, and shields ; the DHALGAR, a maker of leather 
shields ; the CHAKKILIYAN, the Dom of the hill tracts, and 
the KORAL are also workers in leather. The KHATJK 
makes drum-heads. The CHARKATA is a Mohammadan 
leather-worker. The bihteti, who is sometimes a 
Chamar, also works in leather. The CHIK, CHIKWA, is a 
Mohammadan who turns out goat and sheep skins. 

In the Punjab 2 still other sub-castes of Chamars are 
found. The CHANDAR, whose origin is traced to Benares, is 
sometimes reckoned as the highest of the sub-castes. He 
does no tanning. He forms the principal sub-caste in the 
Hisar and Sirsa regions. The CHAMRANG is a tanner who 
works in ox and buffalo hides only, and who does not 
work up the leather which he tans. One section of this 
group, which keeps pigs, is separated from the other, which 
dyes and tans hides. The RAMDASI is a weaver. The 
CHAMBAR is the principal sub-caste about Jalandar and 
Ludhiana. Besides, there are the CHAMAR, the CHAMARWA, 
CHANWAR, and the JATA. The last is the descendant of the 

1 Elliot, Memoirs, North-West Provinces of India, vol. L p. 78. 

* See Rose, A Glossary of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and 
North-West Frontier Province, article " Chamar, M and Ibbeteon, 
Punjab Census Report of 1881. 


wife of Rim Das, In Patfala we have the endogamous 
BAGRI and DESI. The former is an immigrant from Bagar, 
and the latter consists of two groups, Chamars who make 
shoes, and the BONAS, weavers of blankets, who are Sikhs. 
Among the allied castes in the Punjab are the DHED, who 
is a separate caste in the Central Provinces, and in Gujarat ; 
but who does there much that is really Chamar work ; the 
BUNIYA and the RUHTIYA, both Sikh Chamars, who have 
taken to weaving; the BILAI (known as a Chamar in the 
Punjab), a groom and a village messenger, and, in the 
Central Doab, a weaver and labourer ; the DOSADH, an 
eastern tribe of Chamars ; the RAMDASI, or SIKH, who is 
usually a weaver, and who does not eat carrion ; and the 
KHATIK. Besides these there is the MOCHI, who is, for 
the most part, a Mussulman Chamar. He works in 
leather, graining it and giving it a surface stain. In the 
west he is a worker in leather, whether it be as a skinner, as 
a tanner, or as a shoemaker. The name mochi is often 
applied to the more skilled workman of the towns and 
cities. The Mochi is not usually a weaver. In the west 
he does not occupy as important a place in agriculture as 
in the east. He does not render menial services. Where 
the Chamar is not numerous, his place is taken by the 
Mochi. The KHATIK, the PASI, and the CHANAL are 
traditionally connected with leather worker. The latter 
is a professional skinner in the Simla hills and corresponds 
to the Chamar of the plains. 1 

In Behar and Bengal the MOCHI and the CHAMAR are 
one caste. 

In the Central Provinces 2 we have the CHAMARS, the 
greater portion of whom are in the Chhattisgarh Division. 
Here many villages contain none but Chamars, from the 
landlord down ; and seventy per cent, of these Chamars 
have given up leather work entirely. Among the sub- 
castes in these Provinces, the SATNAMI is the most impor- 
tant. Other Chamars are termed paikahd as opposed to 
the Satnami. The KANAUJIYA and the AHARWAR are tan- 

1 Sec Census Report of the Punjab, 1911, pp. 398, 469. 
1 Sec Census Report, Central Provinces, 1911, p. 231. 


ners and leather workers. They make shoes in a peculiar 
way. The Kanaujiya eats pork but does not raise pigs. 
The Aharwar claims to be a descendant of Rai Das. The 
JAISWAR is a groom. There are a number of territorial groups 
whose names have geographical significance, among whom 
BERARIA and DAKHINI. There are also a number of groups 
whose names are of occupational significance. These are 
the BUDALGIRS, makers of leather bags (budla); the DAIJANIYAS 
whose women folk are midwives (ddl)\ the KATUAS, or 
leather-cutters ; the GOBARDHUAS, who collect the drop- 
pings of cattle on the threshing floors, and wash out and 
eat the undigested grain ; the MOCHI, or shoe-maker ; and 
the JINGAR, the saddle-maker and book-binder. The Jingar 
claims to be superior to the Mochi, although the latter 
claims to be of Rajput origin ; and some under the 
name, JIRAYAT, are separating from the main caste and are 
forming a higher social group. They are skilled artisans 
who handle guns and other delicate instruments. At the 
other extreme of the social scale is the DOHAR, who is a 
grass-cutter and doer of odd jobs. Besides, there is the 
aboriginal worker in leather, the SOLHA, a very small group. 
The KOR-CHAMARS are weavers. In Berar we find the 
superior ROMYA or HARALYA Chamar. Two groups of 
beggars are the MANGYA and the NONA Chamars. In 
Raipur the Chamars have become regular cattle-dealers 
and are known as KOCHIAS. In Central India we find the 
BALAHIS, one section of whom are weavers, and the other, 
carrion-eaters, who skin animals and deal in skins. (In the 
Punjab the Chamars engaged to manure the fields and some 
who take up groom's work are called Balahis or Balais.) 

In the eastern parts of Rajputana, the leather-worker 
is a Mohammadan. Other leather-workers of this area 


Bikaneer the BALAI is the leather-worker. 
1 See Census Report, Rajputana, 1901, p. 147. 


In the Bombay 1 Presidency are found, as in North 
India, seven main divisions of leather-workers. Of these, 
the SATRANGAR and the HALALBHAKT are dyers of skins, 
the former working in sheepskins ; the PARADOSH- 
PARDESI manufactures tents ; and the DABALI, the Woji, 
and the CHAUR are lower in the social scale than the 
others, and eat the flesh of bullocks and of other 
animals. Besides these, there is the MARATHI CHAMAR and 
the KALPA. All of these, except the Paradoshpardesi, 
are shoemakers. There is also the JINGAR, or saddle and 
harness maker, and the RANGARI, or tanner. In addition 
to these we have the DHOR, a maker of leather buckets and 
a dyer of skins ; the KATAI, a cobbler and tent-maker ; and 
the DAPHGAR, a bottle-maker. The two last-named eat 
carrion. In Gujarat 2 we find the KALPA, a skinner and 
tanner, and the MOCHI, a maker of leather and of shoes. 

The leather-worker of the Tamil country is the CHAKAL- 
LiYAN. 8 He is a dresser of leather and a maker of slippers, 
harness, and other articles of leather. He is a devil-worship- 
per. He holds sacred the avaram (cassia aureculata) 
tree. It is to be noted that the bark of this tree is a most 
valuable tanning agent. The men of this caste are drunk- 
ards. They eat flesh, and are more detested than the 
Pariah. As a usual thing their girls are not married before 
puberty. Widows are re-married. Divorce is common 
and is easily secured. Their women are beautiful, and from 
amongst them is usually chosen the woman for the coarser 
form of sakti worship. The women are noted also for 
their intrigues with landlords and other rich men. 

The great leather-working caste of the Telugu country 
is the MADIGA.* He lives on the outskirts of the village. 
He is described as coarse and filthy, as an eater of unclean 
food, and as a user of obscene language. He works in 
leather, and serves as a menial and as a scavenger. Many 

1 Shewing, Tribes and Castes, Vol. II. pp. 203 ff. 

Ibid. Vol. II. p. 279. 

* Castes and Tribes of Southern India, E. Thurston, Vol. II. 
pp. 2 ff. 

4 Ibid., Vol. IV. pp. 292 ff. See also General Index, The Village 
Gods of South India, Bishop Whitehead, under " Madigas." 


MADIGAS are practically serfs. Most of them are field- 
labourers. They beat drums at festivals. In some parts 
of the country they still have their perquisites (jajmdn), but 
these are disappearing under competition. They perform 
the revolting parts of bloody sacrifices, and aid in removing 
the demons of disease. Their girls are often dedicated to 
temple service (basavis). The caste is divided into a num- 
ber of endogamous divisions with exogamous septs, some of 
which seem to be totemistic. Widows are re-married. 
Divorce is easily secured. They have a panchayat, or 
council. They both bury and burn their dead. In 1902 
ten per cent, of the Madigas were returned as Christians. 

Evidences of affiliations with other castes have already 
been mentioned, such as the Kaiyan with the Bohra from 
above ; and the Kori and the Kol and other alliances from 
below. 1 Other cases of affiliations and illustrations of caste 
fissure are suggested by such well-known names as, Kor- 
Chamar, a weaver become tanner ; Chamar-Julaha, a 
Chamar become weaver; and Chamar-Kori. In Gorakh- 
pur there are no Koris, but Kori-Chamars. The KARWAL, 
a vagrant tribe, is found also as a sub-caste under the 
Chamar. 3 The Darzi, the Banjara, the Barhai and the 
Sonar each have a Chamar sub-caste. 8 The Kayastha- 
Mochi, who makes saddles and harness, claims to be of 
superior origin, and says that the term, "Mochi" refers 
merely to his occupation. There are other sub-castes of 
Chamars and allied castes which now form more or less 
separate bodies and claim to be distinct castes. Even the 
laiswar, for example, claims, in some places, to be a 
separate caste. The Dusadhs of Bihar are another example. 
The Kori (Hindu weaver) is probably another instance of 
caste fissure. 

A notable example of a caste formed from the Chamar 
is the Mohammadan weaver, the Julaha. He is distributed 
over the United Provinces in considerable numbers, and is 

1 See pages 25 and 26. 

9 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 368. 

1 See Crooke, Ethnographical Handbook of The North-West Pro- 
vinces and Oudh. pp. 188, 65, 23, 70. See also Russell, Tribes and 
Castes of the Central Provinces, Vol. I. p. 353. 


found also in other parts of India, especially in the Pun- 
jab. 1 He is a typical illustration of how a group of people 
may rise in the social scale within the Brahmanic system. 
Originally a Chamar, he secured a better position by 
taking to weaving. He eats no carrion, touches no 
carcasses, does not work in impure leather, and has 
separated himself entirely from the other sections of the 
Chamar. In taking to the comparatively high occupation 
of weaving, he has reached the border of the respectable 
artisan class. In many places this separation took place 
a good while ago; but Ibbetson reported instances of this 
process still going on. His numbers are recruited from 
several groups, as the following names show: Chamar- 
Julaha, Koli-Julaha, Mohammadan-Julaha and Rai Das- 
Julaha. In many instances now the caste prefix has been 
dropped. Ninety-two per cent, of the Julahas are Moham- 
madans. Among the Hindu Julahas are many Kabir-panthis 
and Ramdasis. Kabir was a Julaha. 

Still more important is the Mochi, a purely occu- 
pational off-shoot from the Chamar. The word "mochi," 
which is applied to those who make shoes, leather aprons, 
buckets, .harness, portmanteaux, etc., denotes occupation 
rather than caste. Mochis are divided into two main 
classes, those who make and cobble shoes, who are real 
Chamars; and those who make saddles and harness. 
These latter call themselves Sirbdstab-Kdyasths, with 
whom they intermarry and agreq in manners and customs. 
According to a text cited as authoritative by the pandits 
of Bengal, the astrologers are shoe-makers by caste, and 
good Brahmans sometimes refuse to take even a drink of 
water from their hands. 2 In 1891 there were reported one 
hundred and fffty sub-divisions of Hindu Mochis. 8 In 
some places the Mochis of the towns are divided into 

1 See Rose, A Glossary of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and the 
North West-Frontier Province, Vol. II.413ff., andCrooke, An Ethno- 
graphical Handbook for the North-West Provinces and Oudh, pp. 

1 Bhattacharji, Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 173. 

* Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. III. p. 498. 


functional sub-castes, such as saddlers, embroiderers of 
saddle-cloth, ghi bucket-makers, makers of spangles and of 
shields and scabbards. These sub-castes rise in rank as 
their calling requires greater skill or more costly materials. 1 
While the Mochi is an offshoot from the Chamar, as a 
caste he is quite distinct. However, this holds good in 
certain areas only. He neither eats nor intermarries with 
the Chamar. The Mochi does not eat carrion or pork, and 
his wife does not serve as a midwife. His touch is not 
polluting. The maker of leather is considered lower in the 
scale than he who works in prepared leather. As a class 
he is well off, and socially superior to the Chamar. 2 The 
Gorakhpur Mochi has received medals at Melbourne and 
Paris for embossed deerskins, made up as table-cloths, table- 
mats, carpets, etc. The Bengali Mochi is a Chamar, but 
he tans only cow, buffalo, goat, and deer hides. Many 
Mochis are Mohammadans. The Census of 1891 returned 
twenty-seven divisions of Mohammadan Mochis. 8 The 
Mochi of Garhwal is from the non-Aryan race called the 
pom and is an endogamous group ; and in Almora this 
group includes Chandal (Chamar), and Mochi or Sarki 
(tanner). 4 In the Punjab, the Mochi, who is a Chamar, 
works in tanned leather. 5 He also grains leather. In some 
places the name Mochi denotes a Mussulman Chamar. 
Sometimes he is a weaver. In the west of the Punjab he is 
a tanner and leather-worker. In Ludhiana he is a weaver, 
and the name is almost synonymous with Julaha, but he does 
not intermarry with the latter. In the east of the Punj ab, the 
Hindu Mochi makes boxes, saddles, and other articles of 
leather but not shoes. Some Punjab Mochic claim Rajput 
origin. The Bhanger of Kapurthala, a weaver, is an off- 
shoot from the Mochi, but he does not intermarry with him. 

1 Sir Athelstane Baines, Ethnography, in Griindries der indo- 
arischen Philologie und Atlertums Kunde, 1912, p. 80. 

* Nesfield, A Brief Review of the Caste System of the North-West 
Provinces and Oudh, p. 22. 

' Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces 
and Oudh, Vol. III. p. 498. 

4 CensusReport, United Provinces, 1911, p. 356. 

1 Rose, A Glossary of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and 
North-West Frontier Province , Vol. III. pp. 123 ff. 



As a rule the Chamar chooses his wife locally, outside 
his own village group, but within his own sub-caste. 
Although the sub-castes are essentially endogamous groups, 
marriages are occasionally arranged between members of 
different sub-castes. For example, Dhusiyas and Kana- 
ujiyas intermarry, 1 and Jatiyas and Kaiyans sometimes do. 

Again, the restrictions between endogamous groups 
may apply only to the giving, not to the taking of wives. 
Thus, Kurils will take Dohar girls in marriage, but will 
not give their daughters to Dohars. In such instances the 
Kuril settles with the birddari by giving a feast ; and, 
indeed, nearly all infringements of marriage regulations are 
usually adjusted by the panchayat's ordering the payment 
of a fine or the giving of a feast. 

Occupation may become a bar to marriage, sometimes 
even within the endogamous group. Thus, those who 
remove manure and night-soil cannot intermarry with 
those who serve as grooms. Rai Dasis (in the Punjab) 
will not marry with latiyas who skin dead animals. Jatiyas 
in the Delhi territory, who work in the skins of "unclean" 
animals, are refused marriage by some clans of the Sutlej. 2 
In some places Kurils who tan do not marry with Kurils 
who make shoes. 

Within the sub-caste there are smaller exogamous or 
" family " groups (got, kul) which bear the name of some 
mythical saint, hero, or other person ; the name of some 

1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces 
and Oudh y Vol. II. p. 194. 

Ibbeteon, Census Report, Punjab, 1881, p. 181. 



village or locality; or a name having reference to some 
totem. Marriage between members of the same exo- 
gamous group is prohibited. The chachera-mamerd-phuph- 
erd-mausera law, which prevents a man marrying anyone 
in the line of his uncle or aunt on either the male or the 
female side, 1 is somewhat loosely observed ; but the 
practice usually followed is that, so long as any relationship, 
however remote, is found on either side, marriage is 
forbidden. In some places a marriage is not arranged 
with any family from which a mother, a grandmother or a 
great-grandmother has come. 2 A man may marry two 
sisters, but in general may not have them both as wives at 
the same time, and the second sister must be younger than 
the first. He may not marry the daughter of a brother-in- 
law. Marriages are always arranged by the parents or 
relatives of the parties, and women are never contracting 
parties. Of course, the female relatives hav a voice in 
the discussion of the marriage arrangements, and their 
opinion carries weight. Marriage is considered a sacra- 
ment and not a contract. Still, in some places, a bride- 
price as high as twenty or thirty rupees, and occasionally 
as high as one hundred, is paid ; but the amount exacted 
is usually that fixed by custom. Nowadays this price 
generally takes the form of a contribution made by the 
groom's family towards the expenses of the wedding. 
Besides money, it includes gifts of clothes, food, sugar 
(gur)y cooking utensils, and ornaments. A marriage is 
binding when the ceremony is performed, even if the 
consent of the parties has not been expressed or implied ; 
but the consent of the relatives of both parties to a 
marriage must in every case be obtained. In case the 
marriage does not take place until after puberty, or where 
some other unfortunate circumstances 'have occurred, the 
bride may be given away. Daughters are married in order 
of seniority. When a girl may not be married, on account 
of some infirmity, or for some other equally valid reason, 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 212. 
a Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. II. p. 174. 


the younger sister is allowed to marry. The younger sister 
may be married first, if the older is already betrothed. 1 

Under the principles of concubinage and polygamy, the 
practice of keeping more than one woman is common. 
There is no general objection to polygamy, provided a 
man is financially able to support more than one wife. 
Where the first wife is barren, a second marriage is usually 
sanctioned by the council. Furthermore a man may buy 
a widow or a younger woman. Widow-marriage often 
contributes to polygamy, especially where the younger 
brother takes the widow of his deceased brother. 
Although a second wife is often bought, she is not always 
regularly married. In some places, when a man takes a 
second wife, the first leaves him, and desertion under 
such circumstances is recognized as according to tribal 
custom. If the second woman live with the man for 
twelve years, she will have the same rights as the first. 
If the husband die, and the two women live at peace, 
both will inherit, provided he make a will. Rival wives, 
however, as a usual thing, do not get on together, and the 
quarrelling arising out of this condition has a special name, 
sautiyd ddh. There is a saying, ** Even a co-wife of wood 
is an evil." 2 

Concubinage (lauihdi, bambdi, rakhni, rdmdi, bithdl) is 
widely practised, especially where men are able to support 
a large establishment, and the practice is not considered 
wrong. Two or three concubines are quite common, 
and some keep even more. They are obtained by pur- 

Among the Chamars early marriage is all but universal. 
The betrothal is very early, often in infancy, and marriage 
is usually as early as the eighth year. Any time between 
the weaning of the child and the eleventh year is con- 
sidered proper for marriage. However, the age for the 
consummation of marriage is pretty generally recognized 
as that of puberty. Under special conditions, when the 

1 Census Report, Punjab, 1911, p. 268. 

* Crooke, Tribes and Caste* of the North-Western Provinces and 
Odh t Vol. II. p. 175, 


bride is an orphan, or when her parents are in financial 
straits, she may go to her husband's home at an earlier 
age. Usually the marriage is consummated when the 
groom is from sixteen to eighteen years of age and the 
bride from twelve to fourteen. The last Census returns 
for the United Provinces show that ninety-eight per cent, 
of all Chamar girls over fifteen years of age are married. 
The general practice of the caste may be gathered from 
the description of the marriage ceremonies. In 1891 
Chamars were included in the group in which infant 
marriage most widely prevailed. 

There are special forms of marriage contracts which 
may be mentioned here. One is marriage by exchange 
(watta satta, gurdwat, adla badla), where each family 
gives a girl in marriage to a son in the other. This is 
done to save marriage expenses, and is practised amongst 
the poor. Another 1 form of marriage is that in which, 
like Jacob, a boy serves a certain number of years for a 
wife. This is called ghar jawdi, and is sometimes arranged 
when a man has no son. The marriage relation may 
exist during this time. 

There ^re in the Chamar marriage-ceremony many in- 
teresting survivals of marriage by capture. Among these 
are the bridegroom's coming mounted on a horse, if he 
can afford it, or in an ekka, or in a doll, or a bahli; in his 
carrying a sword, or something to represent it ; in the 
bardt being composed of men, and in their stopping out- 
side the bride's village ; in the mock fight between the two 
parties at the bride's door ; in the bride's being carried 
away in some sort of equipage ; in the pulling down of 
one of the poles of the marriage pavilion or the shaking 
of it by the groom's father, and in the shaking of it by the 
groom ; in the weeping of the bride ; in the show of 
violence on the part of the bridegroom ; in the mark of the 
bloody hand at both houses ; in the fact that at the pherd 
the bride wears nothing belonging to herself, but things 
given by the groom's relatives ; in the hiding of the bride ; 
in the bringing of false brides and in other jokes at the 

1 Census Report, Punjab, 1911, p. 386. 



expense of the groom and his party ; in the fact that the 
bride's mother makes a mark in red on the groom's father's 
shoulder ; in that the boy's village is tabu so far as 
drinking water by the bride's father and elder brother is 
concerned ; in the fact that all the words denoting male 
relations by marriage are used as terms of abuse (e.g., 
susra, said, bahnoi, jawcti) ; and in the use of abuse 
directed by the bride's women-folk against the groom's 
relatives and friends all through the wedding ceremonies. 

Chamars in 1891 were included in the group in 
which widows were comparatively few. The following table, 
taken from the census of 1911, * shows that the marriage of 
widows between the ages of twenty and forty is almost 






-\ C C *o 

I a 

,8 'g * 

si 'I | 

a s 

,3 *s * 

c "P 'P ,2 

^S 5 2 
s s 

,-s s * 

s l 1 1 

*! 1 1 

a l 1 1 


408 522 70 
302 547 151 

993 7 .. 
988 11 1 

896 100 4 
783 311 6 

478 492 30 
130 839 31 

89 836 75 
15 885 100 

This remarriage of widows is legal and the tribal council 
may declare the children rightful heirs. The limits for 
such marriages are the same as for virgins. If the widow 
be young, and there be a younger brother of her former 
husband, of suitable age, they usually marry. There 
are traces of the levirate, in the right of the younger 
brother to take the widow in marriage. There is no idea 
of raising up seed for the dead brother. If the widow 
have brothers-in-law (brothers of her late husband), she 
must marry one of them, unless they choose to sell her, or 
make another arrangement for her. An older brother 
may take her. She may be married to the husband of an 
elder sister provided the latter be willing, or if the latter 
has died. If she is old enough to decide for herself, and 
if she has a child, het consent to the arrangements is taken; 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, pp. 244 and 245, 
shows number per 1,000 of each sex* 


otherwise her relatives will decide. No ceremony is per- 
formed. The children by the former marriage may remain 
in the father's family, except in the case of an infant. 
Sometimes the woman takes all of the children with her, 
but then they do not inherit from their father. The settle- 
ment of the inheritance is usually made by the council. 
If there be no younger brother of suitable age, she may 
marry someone, usually a widower of the tribe, by an 
informal rite, but not by the Sadi ceremony. 1 If she 
marries outside of the family, the bride-price must be paid 
to her former husband's relatives, and she loses the 
property and the children by the previous marriage. If 
the groom is not a widower, some form of mock marriage 
may be performed. By this ceremony the groom and 
the bride are placed upon the same level. It seems 
as if the widow were inherited by the levir, or bought 
by the outsider ; as if she were property to be inherited, 
or to be sold. Of course her marriage is arranged for her 
by her own family, and the family of her late husband 
must agree to the marriage. 

As a caste rises, the remarriage of widows and the 
levirate disappear together. For example, well-to-do 
Chamars in Cawnpore are prohibiting widow-marriage. 
Young widows (children) are mere household drudges, and 
are often ill-treated, poorly fed, and generally neglected. 

Divorce is common. A man with the consent of the 
panchayat may turn his wife out for unfaithfulness, but 
she cannot get a separation on the same ground, if he 
feed and clothe her properly. A woman may desert her 
husband if he take a second wife. Impotency "proved to 
the satisfaction of the council is another valid reason for 
a wife's abandoning her husband. In some places, a 
woman may not secure a divorce on the ground of 
disease or physical defect in her husband, provided his 
relatives continue to support her. The discovery of 
physical defects in the bride after marriage would be 
sufficient grounds for a divorce ; and if a separation occurs 
on such grounds, the husband is usually satisfied if the 

This agrees with Mann, 


marriage fee is returned. The divorced parties may marry 
others. Separation for adultery if the woman does not 
stay at home, and also for certain forms of disease, such as 
insanity, may be sanctioned. As a usual thing, the woman 
who is thus turned out of doors by her husband is either 
abandoned or sold. If she be sold, she may be married by 
the sagai rite, and the issue of such a marriage can 
inherit. The principal causes of separation are when the 
woman leaves her husband and returns to her parents and 
when she goes to live with another man. In both cases 
the former husband receives back his wedding expenses. 
Divorce is legalized by the panchayat. Sometimes the 
woman breaks a straw as a sign that her marriage has 
been dissolved. 

Traces of the matriarchate are seen in the following 
facts: The marriage is arranged by the mother's brother, 
or the mother's sister's husband, or these relatives play 
an important part in the negotiations ; the father's 
sister's husband, negl, has duties at the wedding ; 
there are other similar relationships involved. Again, 
the uncle's (mother's brother's) consent to the marriage 
is necessary, and he sometimes receives all or part 
of the bride-price. In other places his privileges are 
confined to the making of certain gifts, such as earrings, 
the wedding clothes for all the family, and a certain 
number of rupees towards the wedding expenses, and the 
furnishing of the dinner for the barat. These privileges 
are not always obligatory. There are other duties in con- 
nection with the funeral rites and the practices connected 
with the birth and early years of children, which point in 
the same direction. 

Social intercourse is lax and moral standards are exceed- 
ingly low. Irregular unions, such as concubinage, both 
inter-tribal and extra-tribal, are admitted by the Chamars. 
Where sentiment is against such practices the payment of a 
fine removes disabilities. Sexual irregularities are common. 
When they are brought to the notice of the council, they 
are punished by fine. A man may leave his wife and take 
another, yet through the panchayat he may demand his 
former wife back again. If a woman is discovered in 


adultery, a fine and a feast are required by the panchayat 
or she is out-casted. In case a widow becomes pregnant, 
abortion is resorted to, or some marriage is arranged, or 
she may be sold. If she names the father of her child, or 
if the panchayat discovers him, they are required to marry, 
but both are ostracized for about a year, after which the 
panchayat may recognize them and their union. If this 
irregularity be with a man of another caste she is excom- 
municated. Pre-marital immorality is common, and, if 
within the caste, is much less serious than if detected 
with outsiders. A pregnant girl simply names before the 
panchayat the man concerned, and he must take her as his 
wife, that is if they are not of the same got, and he is 
unmarried ; otherwise he must pay a fine. This always 
includes cash and a feast. She will then remain with her 
parents, or they may arrange a wedding for her or turn 
her out. These matters are sometimes severely dealt 
with. The children of such irregular unions have no 
property rights. Again, the guilty man in such a case may 
pay a bride-price and she may marry someone else. 
The sale of a woman is common when she gives trouble, 
or is unhappy, or lazy, or disobedient, or if she be a bad 
character. The purchaser takes her by means of the less 
formal marriage ceremony. In the Punjab Chamar wo- 
men are sold to Jats, to Gujars, to some Rajputs, and to 
Mohammadans as wives. 1 Some bring as high a price 
as 200 or 300 rupees. These are usually women of 
the poor. Women are sometimes gambled away. In 
case of children born from irregular marriages, if the 
woman be of a higher caste or rank than the husband, 
the children have full caste rights, but restricted inheri- 
tance or no inheritance at all. In other cases, the offspring 
belong to the caste, or tribe, of the father, except when 
the mother is a Mohammadan, or of a lower caste. There 
are certain kinds of laxity that are common. A visitor 
occasionally has liberties with the host's wife or daughter. 
But this is not considered "good." The relatives of the 

1 Report, Census of India, 1911, p. 378; some of these are from 
the United Provinces, 


husband take certain liberties (hatitsna-khelnd) which 
usually do not extend to immoral acts. There is some- 
times prostitution in the home, and sometimes the wife is 
hired out. Women sometimes exchange husbands secretly. 
A woman may go and live openly with another man and 
still be received back. Sometimes, when men are in the 
relationship of very close friends, having vowed friendship 
on rice from the temple of Jagannath, they will each place 
his wife at the disposal of the other. 1 In the Central 
Provinces Chamar women are hired for the sakti mdrg 
ceremonies, and women of the Madigas and Chakalliyans of 
the South are chosen for similar rites. During the year at 
certain festivals, such as the Holl y the Dewdli, and the Sdwan, 
there is great sexual license. Not only are the songs of 
these festivals obscene beyond imagination, but the people 
give themselves up to unlimited excess. 

There are other social customs, more or less objected 
to, but often allowed and not considered wrong, which are 
gradually disappearing under modern conditions: such are 
the jus primae noctis of landlords and gurus. The zamindar 
often has liberties with the Chamar's wife in consideration 
for his payments to the Chamar. The sais's wife often 
gives immoral services where her husband is employed in 
the towns or cities. Furthermore there are certain 
customs within the caste which are most debasing. 
" Formerly, when a Satnami Chamar was married, a 
ceremony called Satlok took place within three years of the 
wedding, or after the birth of the first son, which Mr. 
Durga Prasad Pande describes as follows: It was considered 
to be the initiatory rite of a Satnami, so that prior to its 
performance he and his wife were not proper members of 
the sect. When the occasion was considered ripe, a com- 
mittee of men in the village would propose the holding of 
the ceremony to the bridegroom ; the elderly members of 
his family would also exert their influence upon him, be- 
cause it was believed that if they died prior to 'ts perform- 
ance their disembodied spirits would continue a comfortless 

1 Russell, The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of 
India, Vol. II. p. 413. 


existence about the scene of their mortal habitation, but 
if afterwards that they would go straight to heaven. 
When the rite was to be held a feast was given, the 
villagers sitting round a lighted lamp placed on a water-pot 
in the centre of the sacred chauk or square made of lines of 
wheat flour ; and from evening until midnight they would 
sing and dance. In the meantime the newly-married wife 
would be lying alone in a room in the house. At midnight 
her husband went into her and asked her whom he should 
revere as his guru or preceptor. She named a man, and 
the husband went out and bowed to him, and he then went 
in to the woman and lay with her. The process would be 
repeated, the woman naming different men until she was 
exhausted. Sometimes if the head priest of the sect was 
present, he would nominate the favoured men who were 
known as gurus. Next morning the married couple were 
seated together in the courtyard, and the head priest or his 
representative tied a kanthi or necklace of wooden beads 

round their necks, repeating an initiatory text It is 

also said that during his annual progresses it was the custom 
for the chief priest to be allowed access to any of the wives of 
the Satnamis whom he might select, and that this was con- 
sidered rather an honour than otherwise by the husband. 
But the Satnamis have now become ashamed of such prac- 
tices, and, except in a few isolated localities, they have been 
abandoned." 1 The practice has not been entirely abandoned. 
The probability is that female infanticide is not prac- 
tised by the Chamars, although female infants are neglected, 
often deliberately. When food is scarce they suffer 
most. But other reasons will account for the disparity in 
numbers between males and females. The woman is 
more subject to plague and malaria, owing to her domestic 
duties and to her closer confinement in the house. Be- 
sides this, unsanitary and unclean methods of midwifery 
are the cause of a good deal of female mortality. Further- 
more, the practice of infant marriage reduces the vitality 
of women and subjects them to many dangers. Yet, when 

1 Russell, The Tribes and Castes, of the Central Provinces of 
India, Vol. I. pp. 311, 312. 


all the disabilities of women are taken into account, the 
proportion of females to males is high. In the United 
Provinces, there are, among the Chamars, 958 females to 
every 1,000 males. 1 This is above the average for the 
Provinces for the whole population. 2 For Bihar and 
Orissa the proportion is 1,153 females to 1,000 males, for 
the Central Provinces and Berar 1,035 to 1,000, and for 
the Punjab 846 to 1,000. 

Not only is the moral standard of the Chamar low in 
respect to social purity, but also in matters of excessive 
use of narcotic drugs and intoxicating beverages. 
Drunkenness is a caste-failing and forms a prominent 
element in many domestic and religious customs. 

The Chamar is not fastidious about his food. He eats 
the leavings from nearly all castes, except the Dhobt and 
Pom. The death of a buffalo or of a cow in the village 
is his opportunity for a feast. This is almost universally 
true, although there are sub-castes some of whose 
members do not eat carrion, and the number of such is 
growing. There is, however, not a single sub-caste that 
is free from this practice. Sometimes the chief men of a 
sub-caste may refuse to share in such food. Further- 
more, many Chamars eat pork. In general the flesh of 
fowls and of cloven-footed animals goes to the Chamar, 8 
while that of such animals as do not divide the hoof goes 
to the Dom or Bhariigi. The Chamar in general will not 
touch the carcasses of ponies, camels, cats, dogs, squirrels, 
and monkeys. Those are delegated to the Bharngl. 
Strange as it may seem, in some places (e.g., the Punjab, 
in Hindu communities), while he eats dead cattle, the 
Chamar may be excommunicated for eating beef.* In 
Mohammadan communities there is no such scruple. 

His ordinary food consists of bread made from the flour 
of the cheaper grains such as gram, barley, and millet, and 
of such grains as he may get as pay for labour at harvest- 
time. His regular meal is at night. He has some grain 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 204. 
Which is 915/1,000. 

Ibbctson, Census Report of the Punjab, 1881, p. 330. 
4 Census Report, Punjab, 1911, p. Ill, 


in the morning and sattu 1 at noon. " He considers that 
his full ration would be two and a half pakd seers of grain 
or about three and a half Government sirs. Some days 
he gets only one seer and sometimes one and a half seers. 
A large part of his diet consists of whatever vegetables, 
such as leaves of gram, mustard, etc., his wife and children 
can pick up in the fields. His rule is to mix from two to 
four chhatdmks of flour in about two and a half seers of 
vegetables. These are all boiled down into a mess and eaten 
hot with the balance of the flour made into bread." 2 

Some groups, as for example the Jaiswars, refuse to 
eat any food prepared by others. It is difficult to say just 
how far these distinctions are observed, but in general the 
main sub-castes do not eat or drink or smoke together. 
Chamars will accept cooked food from members of their 
own sub-caste and from those sub-castes which are of a 
slightly higher social status. For example, a Chamar will 
accept food from a Jatiya, but the reverse is impossible. 
There is a gulf between these sub-castes, not only 
determined by occupation, but by other considerations as 
well, for a Jatiya plasters the place where he cooks his 
food with cow-dung, while the Chamar does not. The 
former will eat goat's flesh but not beef, while the latter has 
no such scruples. 

The rules pertaining to the drinking of water are 
similar to those with reference to eating. For example, a 
Jatiya, while he will not drink water in the house of a 
Chamar, will take the latter's lota, clean it, draw water 
with it from the well of the Chamar and drink it. The 
vessel in which the water is brought must belong 
to a member of the caste. Women draw and carry the 
water required for household purposes. A Chamar will 
accept spirituous liquors from the hand of a higher sub- 
caste man but not from that of a lower. If he drink from 
the hands of a member of another sub-caste, he will require 
a separate cup ; but if those who drink together are of the 

1 Flour made from parched grains, such as barley and gram. 
8 See Morrison, Industrial Organization of an Indian Province. 
p. 197, 


same sub-caste, they will drink from the same cup. The 
rules governing smoking are quite similar. Members 
of the same clan will smoke together, but if men of 
different sub-castes are present, each group will have its 
own huqqd. Other castes do not smoke with them. 
Chamars will smoke together, using the same chilam. 

The men and women of the home do not eat together. 
The women prepare the meals and eat after the men have 
finished. Only in times of sickness do the men condes- 
cend to do much household work. 

Since the caste is largely shut up within its own limits, 
social intercourse is almost wholly a caste matter. Higher 
castes do not mingle with them and the Chamars will not 
associate with castes of lower social status. They observe 
caste rules governing marriage and commensality, and are 
said to conform to Hindu practices rather more strictly 
than better-class Hindus. 1 

Chamars will not accept food from Mohammadans. 
When, however, they are out-casted, they will eat any- 

In some places sections of the caste are slowly securing 
a higher social position by adopting the usual methods 
employed in India. 2 Those who are well-to-do, are 
making an effort to seclude their women, are prohibiting 
widow-marriage and are discouraging the more disgusting 
and heterodox practices of eating pork, beef, carrion, and 
the leavings of food of other castes. Such sections are 
slowly separating themselves from the main caste and from 
the name "Chamar." But, as a whole, the caste still 
occupies a position on the very outskirts of Hindu society. 

The Chamar has a well-organized and influential 
council, or panchayat. It is greatly feared, and exercises 
a very strong influence over its constituency. In its 
simplest form it consists of the whole village or mahalld 
group, is conterminous with the sub-caste to which the 
Chamar belongs, and consists of all the men under its 
jurisdiction. In its less extensive form it is a body in which 

* Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 123, 
1 Sec Ibid., 1911, p. 119. 


the families of a village group are represented, or it may be 
composed of all the old men. Usually the representation is 
by families. There may be a sub-committee, often 
composed of five persons, which guides and rules the 
larger body. Amongst the Chamars, as amongst most of 
the functional castes, the panchayat is a permanent body, 
that is, the headman (chaudhari, sarpanch, pradhdn, 
methd, sarddr, mukhiyd, mdnjan) is elected for life. The 
office is usually hereditary. When a chaudhari dies 
leaving a minor son, his relatives usually act for him 
during his minority, allowing him to announce decisions. 
When it becomes necessary, someone else may be chosen 
to succeed the father ; but this would probably be some 
other member of his family. In Rajputana there are 
places where the raja appoints a chaudhari. Continuation 
in office depends upon good conduct and competency. A 
vice-president (ndib-panch, ddrogd), or summoner of the 
council, is a more or less permanent officer, chosen by the 
panchayat. He is sometimes called the chhariddr, or mace- 
bearer. ^ He serves as an assistant to the headman. For 
his services he gets a small money fee, sometimes about 
half what the chaudhari receives. There is a chaudhari in 
every community or village, and, oftentimes, a sarpanch 
or chaudhari, who governs a group of villages. 

The investiture (pagri ddlnd, pagri- lagdna) of the 
chaudhari with his pagri (turban) is a serious matter, for 
it is his official inauguration into an office which is of 
great importance in the social and economic life of the 
Chamar. The whole village group performs this act as a 
sign that they have chosen him and have entrusted him 
with their interests. If the same man be chosen for two 
or more villages, or mahallas, each will give him a pagri. 
Before fhe investiture a careful examination is made 
as to the candidate's fitness for the office and as 
to his character. If the Chamars are satisfied on these 
points, a day is fixed for the ceremony. At the appointed 
time the whole group assembles for the purpose. First, 
with the use of a lota and a basin, there is a general foot- 
washing ceremony. This is followed by a fire sacrifice 
(horn), after which the candidate is conducted to a 


conspicuous place in the midst of the assembly. A white 
pagri together with one and a quarter rupees and a cocoa- 
nut are then presented to him. Occasionally atikd is made 
on his forehead with haldi. Sometimes one, or five, rupees 
are placed in the pagri. Then the assembly greets him as 
chaudhari. A great feast, in which both rice and sugar 
are included, follows. There is an idolatrous phase to 
this dinner similar to that observed in the death feast. 
There is an excessive use of country spirits. Women do 
not take part in these festivities. The expenses of the 
feast are met by a public collection. The candidate him- 
self gives a preliminary feast to the group. His official 
perquisites are certain fees and a percentage of all fines 
connected with trials and a share in the feasts. His office 
brings him in a considerable income. 

All ordinary matters are brought before the local body. 
But, when cases of major importance are to be considered, 
several panchayats may be called together; that is, the 
headmen of several villages, each with a number of 
influential Chamars, meet with the panch> in the village 
where the case has been brought. In very grave matters 
representative men from widely scattered areas may be 
called together. Each sub-caste has its own independent 
council, and, with rare exceptions, different sub-castes do 
not meet in council. However, one or more influential 
men (panch) of another sub-caste may be called in for 
advice. Cases are known, as when the interests of the 
whole caste are involved, of a general meeting of 
representatives of all the chief local sub-divisions of the 
caste. Such a council is called " sabha" and is quite 
modern. Such a one was held in Bijnor some years ago. 
In some places in the Punjab, and in the United Provinces 
also, there are village panchayats in which the Chamars are 

The jurisdiction of the panchayat is local, but other 
panchayats may enforce its findings. The panchayat 
exercises jurisdiction over the following classes of cases : 
(1) Of illicit sexual relations, such as the discovery of a 
pregnant widow, of adultery, or of fornication. If the 
matter is not well known, the parties are let off with a fine 


and a threat, but if the irregularity be a public scandal, 
a trial must be held. (2) Of the violation of the tribal 
rules concerning commensality. (3) Of matrimonial 
disputes, such as the sale of widows and cases where a girl 
is not given in marriage after the betrothal. (4) Of petty 
quarrels that would not come under the cognizance of the 
Government Courts, such as false witnessing, fighting and 
quarrelling. (5) Of disputes about small money transac- 
tions and debts. (6) Of cases connected with hereditary 
rights; and (7) of matters affecting the welfare of the 

There are certain occasions, such as caste dinners of 
all kinds, when persons take advantage of the gatherings 
to bring matters before the panchayat. Council meetings 
are avoided at marriages, but are often held during funeral 

Meetings of the panchayat may be summoned by 
either party to a dispute. Cases are usually brought before 
the whole village group by the offender who wishes to 
clear himself. But the headman or some other 
party may lodge a complaint. The person who calls the 
council must furnish tobacco enough for the whole 
company and a huqqa. He must also pay a fee of one and 
a quarter rupees to the chairman, who will not take up 
the case unless it is paid. This fee is usually spent for 
spirits. The village group is called together and the case 
involved is thoroughly talked over. All evidence is oral. 
Anyone may speak. Often an oath is taken over Ganges 
water, or upon the plough, or with a son in the lap. 
This is resorted to in cases when it is difficult to reach a 
decision or to get at the facts. After a full discussion 
five men are chosen to give a decision. There is no cus- 
tom which necessitates the choosing of the same five men 
in case after case. The decision, which is pronounced by 
the headman, is binding. Decrees are not published, 
except in special cases. When the council finds a person 
guilty of the offence charged, it imposes a penalty 
which usually takes the. form of a fine. This may be 
levied in rupees, or may be an order for the offender to 
entertain the clansmen. The fine may be any reasonable 


amount, but the sum collected seldom exceeds five rupees. 
The fines in certain classes of cases are fixed by custom. 
Until the fine is paid, or the feast given, the offender is 
not allowed to eat or drink with his clansmen. Another 
and a more serious result of conviction is that until the 
ban is removed all marriage alliances with the family of the 
offender are barred ; and, if anyone marries a member of 
such a family, he at once becomes liable to the same 
punishment as that which they are undergoing. It is very 
seldom that the process of excommunication has to be 
used to enforce payments. The fines are spent in the 
purchase of spirits for the members of the tribe and in 
feasting them, or for some such purposes as the digging of 
a well. A certain proportion, however, of the ffnes col- 
lected is the perquisite of the chaudhari. Besides this a 
certain percentage of the fines is often set aside as a sinking 
fund for special purposes, such as the hiring of lawyers 
when trials occur in the Government courts. Some un- 
usual punishments include the sending of persons on 
pilgrimage, requiring them to solicit alms, and various 
forms of degradation. Sometimes a beating with a shoe is 
pronounced as a punishment ; and again the shoes of the 
whole party are placed upon the head of the offender. 
For discovery in sexual irregularities the parties are some- 
times taken to the bank of a tank, or river, where their 
heads are shaved in the presence of the panchayat. They 
are then made to bathe. The shoes of all the company 
are then made into two bundles and placed upon the 
heads of the guilty pair and they are made to promise not 
to repeat the offence. Frequently the convicted party is 
bound to a tree and beaten. If a Chamar entice away the 
wife of a clansman, in addition to the punishment inflicted 
by council he is obliged to pay her marriage expenses. 
Even excommunication resulting from irregular marriages, 
and the punishment of the most grievous offences may be 
remitted by the payment of a fine. Becoming a Christian 
does not necessarily result in excommunication. 
Although* he will, as a Christian, abjure caste practices, he 
is not excluded from social intercourse with the sub-caste 
from which he came, But a Chamar who has turned 


Mohammadan is permanently excluded from his clan. 
In some places, where the Christian is considered by the 
caste as a social outcaste, he may be reinstated by the 
payment of a fine. The amount imposed will depend upon 
the financial ability of the outcasted party. Where a 
whole village which has become Christian desires to be 
reinstated in the biradari, an amount, determined by the 
financial resources of the village, is paid through the 
chaudhari to the head chaudhari of that particular part of 
the country. There is no ceremony of re-instatement ; 
they simply resume the exercise of privileges amongst 
which huqqd-pdni and $ddi~biyah are the most esteemed. 

In some cases heavy penalities are imposed. For example, 
a chaudhari was outcasted for twelve years for showing 
partiality to his brother (the punishment was afterwards 
reduced to a fine by a council of panchayats). Another 
Chamar, who disgraced his caste by begging, was outcasted. 
His son was reinstated by paying a fine of four rupees and 
feasting five Brahmans. 1 Some others, who were in a court 
convicted of poisoning cattle, were excommunicated for 
twelve years. They offered 500 rupees to be reinstated 
but in vain. 2 In another case two Chamars were fined ten 
and six rupees respectively for removing dead animals from 
the house of another Chamar's clients ; and the husband 
of a Chamar woman who worked as midwife for" another 
Chamar's client was fined five rupees. 8 

The work of the panchayat is of great importance. It 
relieves the courts of a great many petty cases, on the 
one hand ; and, on the other, it is of great regulative value 
in the life of the village group. 

There are certain hereditary rights which are the 
privilege of a certain Chamar family (or families) in each 
village. 4 These rights, called jajman or gaukamd, are 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 340. 

2 Ibid., 1911, p. 341. 
1 Ibid., 1911, p. 342. 

4 See Morrison, Industrial Organization of an Indian Province, 
pp. 179, 180, 194-197, from which a good deal of this discussion is 
taken. See also Crooke's Tribes and Castes of the North-Western 
Provinces and Oudh, Vol. II, p. 175. 


carefully guarded. In return for these perquisites the 
Chamar gives regular services to the landlords. The 
circle of clients from whom he receives these privileges 
expect him to remove dead cattle, to prepare leather from 
the hide, and to furnish a certain limited supply of shoes 
and other leather articles. Besides the dead cattle, which 
belong to him by right, he gets a fee of from ten to twelve 
seers of grain for curing the hides of the animals that die. 
From the hide he sells one pair of shoes to the zamindar 
for two and a half seers of grain. The rest of the hide 
is his. Occasionally he is expected to mend, or even to 
make, shoes for nothing. In some places he can claim 
the hide without the obligation of furnishing anything. 
These rights in respect to hides are now being questioned 
and in some cases denied altogether; but the landlord is 
obliged to make some concession, which is usually in the 
form of privileges of cultivation. Besides the rights 
connected with leather, the Chamar receives certain small 
privileges, such as fuel and grass from the village lands and 
gifts at stated festivals and on other social occasions. He 
is expected to work for his clients upon demand, but 
receives certain definite gifts of grain at harvest-time. 

The Chamar's wife has her clientele, as well, for whom 
she acts as midwife, and for whom she performs various 
menial services at marriages and festivals, such as collecting 
wood, bringing earthen vessels from the bazar, supplying 
cow-dung and grinding grain. 

The following summary of the Chamar's perquisites 
as a labourer in rural districts is substantially from 
Morrison. When grain is threshed, the Chamar gets 
twenty seers at each harvest per plough in consideration 
for repairing the well-water bags, for providing leather 
straps and whips, and for helping to clean the grain. 
The light grain and sweepings of the threshing-floor 
are his perquisite in consideration for the help that he 
gives in threshing and in winnowing. For work in 
irrigation his wages are often one and a half annas 
per day. He receives three bundles of the cut crops 
each day during the harvest. These are large or small 
according to the amount of work that he does. As a 


ploughman his wages are a daily portion of grain from one 
and a half to two seers of rabV grain, or pulse, at mid-day, 
which represents half a seer of sattu, and for fifteen days 
during seed-time he will get an additional allowance of one 
seer a day. The practice of paying the Chamar in kind 
is being discontinued in certain parts of the country. 
This is due to changing economic conditions. In former 
days he used to sell his grain in the markets and purchase 
the things which he needed for himself. Women and 
children do the weeding, for which each gets a seer of 
grain, or such an amount as is fixed by custom, and, 
sometimes, an extra allowance. At reaping-time all 
hands receive one good bundle for each sixteen small 
bundles gathered for the landlord. At earth-work an able- 
bodied man earns two seers of grain and half a seer of sattu 
and an additional handful of grain to start with in the 
morning. For carrying flags and doing other services in 
wedding processions, both father and son receive gifts after 
the wedding and an allowance of food during the festivities. 
The Chamar often gets the old clothes and blankets which 
the zamindar wishes to give away. These fees and 
allowances are scarcely more than illustrative. The actual 
amounts vary, and the whole system of perquisites is in a 
somewhat unsettled condition. 

For services as midwife, the Chamari receives food and 
presents. These will be more or less according as the 
child happens to be a boy or a girl, or the firstborn. Her 
usual perquisite is a new sari and four annas in cash. But 
these fees have been considerably increased in recent years. 
It is to be noted, however, that there are areas where this 
work is done by other and lower castes ; and further that, in 
the same sub-caste, in some areas the women are engaged 
in this profession, while in others they are not. The 
practice of midwifery is looked upon as most degrading. 
The women who follow this profession employ methods of 
the crudest sort. Sanitary conditions are almost entirely 
neglected, and no attempt is made to prevent infection. 
A considerable percentage of the mortality amongst women is 
traceable to the work of the midwife. The ceremonies 
of the sixth day are to a certain extent directed against 


tetanus, which is prevalent especially amongst babies. The 
conditions under which the mother is confined are most 
unfavourable. The room is kept close, and she and all 
things within the room are considered unclean. A fire is 
kept burning constantly, and very often the atmosphere is 
laden with the heavy smoke of incense. Such things as red 
peppers and old leather are amongst the articles that are 
cast into the fire. The whole technique of the practice 
of midwifery is directed by custom and superstition ; and 
the evil smells and the other barbarous practices connected 
with the lying-in room are designed to beat off demons of 
disease and of destruction. Unfavourable signs, such as 
fever, are the occasion for the practice of magic and the 
burning of such things as give off most distressing and 
oppressive odours. 1 

There is a real sense in which the Chamar has to do 

work for which he receives no compensation. These 

conditions are well known and need no proof. A 

characteristic illustration is found in the following incident. 

A young Chamar left his section of the country and took 

up service. He became fairly prosperous and felt that he 

had risen in the world. He concluded to pay a visit to 

his native village. There he chanced upon his old 

master, who said, " Give me that umbrella. You have 

no use for it. I will give you eleven annas." So, 

taking it, the landlord said, " Go to work with the plough 

to-morrow." The next morning the landlord's servant 

appeared and forced the Chamar to go to work. In the 

evening the young man received three pice for his day's 

work. He realized then that he was only a Chamar 

after all. As a class, they are oppressed and they live in 

continual fear, especially of the zamindars, and far from 

having the comfortable environment pictured in Industrial 

Organization of an Indian Province, their lot is a hard one. 

They are constantly harassed by demands of all kinds. 

Men are needed for some odd job and a request is sent 

to some officer. A peon goes to the Chamar section of 

the village or town, and impresses the number of persons 

1 For further details see Chapter III, 


required. They are supposed to receive wages for 
their services, but they are more or less at the call 
of others, no matter what their own interests may be. 
There are certain duties which they must perform for 
Government and for the landlord, and for these they 
receive certain privileges related to the land. There are, 
however, many instances where they are required to work 
without pay, under the direction of petty officers. 

Tanners are more common in the Meerut, Agra, 
Rohilkhand, Allahabad, and Lucknow divisions, and less 
common in the Benares, Gorakhpore, and Fyzabad divi- 
sions. Furriers are found only in Saharanpur and Bara 

A catalogue of the different kinds of work which the 
Chamar performs, shows that he belongs to the great class 
of unskilled labour. He is a grass-cutter, coolie, wood- 
and bundle- carrier, drudge, doer of odd jobs, maker and 
repairer of_ thatch and of mud walls, field-labourer, 
groom, house-servant, peon, brickmaker, and even 
village watchman. He is the common labourer 
along the railways and in the great cities. He does a 
good deal of weaving. The contractors who undertake 
petty repairs in the towns and cities are often Chamars. 
He repairs the underground rooms and makes the bins 
where grain is stored, and prepares the threshing-floors. 
Besides, he beats drums, rings bells, and blows trumpets at~ 
weddings or when cholera or other epidemics are being 
exorcised from the village. He also makes musical 
instruments. Some sub-caste names are illustrations of 
occupational functions; for example, Mochi (shoemaker), 
Chdmkatiyd (leather-cutter) , Chamar ( leather-maker) , 
Chamar mdmgtd or Mdmgatiyd (beggar), Kdtud (leather- 
cutter), Tdmtud (maker of leather thongs), Zingdr (maker 
of saddles), and Ndlchhind (one who cuts the navel cord). 

It is as a tanner and worker in leather that the Chamar 
obtains his name. Besides making the thongs, baskets 
and other articles used in husbandry, he is a maker and 
cobbler of shoes. He furnishes not only the shoes made 
according to country patterns, but also, and in rapidly 
increasing quantities, shoes and boots made on English 


models. He is also a dealer in hides. In the Central Pro- 
vinces he has, in some instances, become a dealer in 

But the Chamar is not now chiefly a tanner and a worker 
in leather. The census returns for the United Provinces 
in 1911 show less than 131,000 who reported their here- 
ditary occupation as their principal means of livelihood, 
while but 38,205 reported leather-work of any sort as 
their subsidiary means of livelihood. But 26,112 actual 
workers who returned their traditional occupation as their 
principal means of livelihood, had some subsidiary occupa- 
tion. 1,354,622 recorded their principal occupation as 
cultivation ; 1,245,312 were returned as field-labourers, 
wood-cutters, etc.; 142,248 as artisans and workmen; 
331,244 as labourers (unspecified); and 31,855 as domestic 
servants. 1 In the United Provinces the great majority of 
the Chamars are engaged in " the exploitation of the earth's 
surface. " Similarly we find that, in the Punjab, they are 
an extensive class of low-caste cultivators ; and that in the 
Central Provinces, the great bulk of the caste, namely, the 
Satnamis, do not touch leather at all. The figures from the 
United Provinces 2 show that only five per cent, of the 
Chamars are leather-workers ; that seventy-eight per cent, of 
them exploit the earth's surface (e.g., are cultivators, agricul- 
turists, and labourers); that four per cent, are engaged in 
other industries; that two per cent, are occupied with 
transport and trade ; and that nine per cent, are general 
labourers. In most occupations both men and women are 
engaged. Chamar women, besides performing the ordinary 
house duties, do an immense amount of work in the fields. 
This consists of weeding and other forms of lighter work 
connected with the care of the crops. They also do the 
husking and grinding and help in the winnowing. In 
addition to this they do a considerable amount of ordinary 
coolie work such as carrying produce to market, and the 
like. They do not, however, compete with the men, but 
rather supplement their work. In the hide industries the 

1 Census Tables, United Provinces, 1911, Table XVI, pp. 757 ff. 
* Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, pp. 412, 413. 


number of women-workers to one thousand men is one 
hundred and eighty-five. 1 

Economically the Chamar is a most valuable element 
in the population, and his function is the rough toil and 
drudgery of the community. Though nearly always a 
poor man, he, as a rural labourer, generally has plenty to 
do. His work is distributed over the year about as 
follows : For five months, June to November, he works 
in the field with a plough ; for two months, November 
and December, he is engaged in reaping the kharif (the 
autumn crops); during January and February he is 
occupied with kachchd buildings and other forms of earth- 
work ; in March and April he is busy in gathering the 
rabi (spring harvest); and in May he does a little earth- 
work. Between times he does whatever work comes to 
hand. For the most part he is still in an almost hopeless 
state of degradation and serfdom. In large areas he is at 
the beck and call of others, and dares not lift his voice in 
protest lest he be beaten or driven from his village. How- 
ever, economic changes are taking place, and Chamars 
are leaving the land to take up employment on the 
railways and in the industrial centres. In some parts 
of the country as many as twenty-five per cent, of them 
are away from home half the year. The result is 
an increasing demand for field-labour. Consequently 
wages have been enhanced. The recent increase in 
the value of farm products has resulted, in some 
instances, in the substitution of cash for grain as wages. 
This will eventually help the Chamar. The increased 
value of leather has led the landlords, in some parts of 
the country, to question the Chamars' traditional right to 
raw skins. But the landlord has been obliged to offer 
another form of compensation, and this has been in 
cultivating privileges. The Chamars' rights of occupancy 
are being obstructed in many places, and the laws which 
have been framed for his protection have not always 
secured him his just dues ; still, the amount of land that is 
coming into his possession, both in the form of non- 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 402. 


occupancy and of occupancy rights, is slowly increasing. 
Some Chamars are owners of land, and in the Central 
Provinces, for instance, whole villages are possessed by 
them. Not only are they under the heel of the landlords, 
who they fear may deprive them of their cultivating 
rights and of their houses, but they are also under the 
influence of the baniya and the landlord, from whom they 
borrow to purchase seed-grain, leather, and oxen. Debt 
becomes a heavy shackle for them, and often the labour of 
their whole family is employed in satisfying the claims of 
creditors. As these people begin to discover their rights 
before the law, and as they gather courage, their position 
must improve. Not infrequently Chamars shift to other 
villages where conditions are more tolerable, or they 
appeal to someone who is willing to help them to 
obtain justice. These are encouraging signs. Still, the 
process which will lift him from dependency to indepen- 
dence is a long one, and as yet he has scarcely begun to 



BARRENNESS is looked upon as a great misfortune by 
Chamar women ; and to remove this reproach they visit 
noted shrines and tombs and make offerings, including 
cocoanuts, Itchts, grains, and small sheets. Ashes taken 
from the smouldering log belonging to a holy man, and 
medicines obtained from faqlrs, are used as cures ; and 
some women wear around their necks blue-black threads 
blessed by a bhagat, or wizard. Similar devices are 
employed in the effort to obtain a son. Under the direc- 
tion of a wizard ants are fed daily with a mixture of sugar 
and flour; fish are fed with balls of flour; and the pipal 
tree is watered daily for a year. Some vow to forego salt 
on Sunday, or for a given period. Women used to set 
fire to houses, believing that this would result in the 
obtaining of their desires. Seven or twelve houses had to 
be destroyed. The fear of imprisonment now acts as 
a successful check to this practice. Occasionally, a woman 
will secure by stealth, and swallow a piece of the umbilical 
cord of a recently-born male child, believing that she will 
thereby secure the mother's gift of fertility (of course the 
mother will become barren). Some women curse boys, 
hoping that they may die, for then there is the likelihood 
that the boys will be reborn as their own children. In 
desperate cases, when male (or even female) offspring is 
especially desired a bhagat is called in. He repeats spells 
and incantations over a cup of water, wags his head, and 
goes through various other antics, until he has obtained 
the desired " demoniacal" possession. He then places his 
hand upon the woman, gives her the water to drink, and 


promises her the fulfilment of her desires. The wizard 
receives gifts. Sometimes several bhagats are called in, 
and each performs his own magic. 

Although Chamars believe in general that the know- 
ledge of sex is one of the secrets of the Great Spirit, 
Brahmans are sometimes called in to prophesy as to the sex 
of the child. They use the chance methods of the fortune- 
teller. Some assert that there are signs which foretell sex. 
For example, if at the time of conception a man's right 
nostril twitches, the child will be a boy; if the left nostril, 
a girl. Again, if after conception, the mother goes to 
sleep upon her right side, a boy will be born ; if on her left 
side, a girl. There are certain signs that indicate the sex 
of the child. If, in the later stages of pregnancy the 
right breast, or the right side of the mother, be the larger, 
or if she becomes thin, a son is sure to be born. 

The desires of pregnancy, which they believe may 
begin immediately after conception, or from the fifth 
month, are thought to be the desires of the child, and 
must be granted, or the child will either die or fall under 
the spell of the evil eye. During pregnancy purgative and 
laxative foods are avoided; foods, such as oil, rice, and 
urd, which may cause, as they believe, abortion, are 
forbidden ; and likewise foods, such as vinegar and spices, 
that might give trouble to the child. 

Chamars are particularly exposed to the fear of witch- 
craft and of diabolical agencies generally, so they take 
every precaution to protect the prospective mother from 
evil influences. During the pregnancy the woman wears 
blue-coloured threads, given by a bhagat, around her neck, 
and a copper coin of the old mintage in her hair, and 
hangs charms, fastened with blue-black threads, about her 
neck and waist She does not wear red clothes, but 
prefers white or black garments ; she avoids blood ; she 
keeps a knife under her pillow at night, and wears hltbg 
(asafoetida) in her dress by day. She must not touch 
a woman who has had a miscarriage, and she must not 
have flowers taken into her room. A pregnant woman 
who is afraid that her child may die, will sell it to 
a neighbour for a trifle, or later she will give it .a name 


that will serve to avert the evil eye and that will indicate 
that it is not worth the attention of demons. 

If during pregnancy an eclipse occur, the woman must 
remain in the house, and she must do no work. If she 
does not remain perfectly quiet her child will be deformed. 
A circle of cow-dung is drawn on her abdomen. She 
must not be allowed to sleep. If she eat, her child will go 
mad ; if she uses a needle, the child will be marked with 
a hole in the skin, usually about the ear ; and if she uses 
a knife or scissors, there will be a cut upon the child's 
body, most likely he will have a hare-lip. 

Not long before the time of parturition, and at other 
times as well, promises of offerings are made to various 
godlings and to the sainted dead, to insure a safe and easy 
delivery. For example, a vow is often made that, if the 
child is safely born, they will shave his head, and offer the 
hair to the Ganges. So, some time after the birth of a 
child, perhaps four or five days after purification, or during 
the sixth month, the child's head is shaved and the hair is 
wrapped in a pun (a thin cake of meal fried in ghi or oil), 
or placed between two puris, and cast into the Ganges. 
If the river is not near by, the hair may be buried in 
the compound, or, they may wait until some mela gives 
them occasion to visit the river. In this latter case, they 
will not only make the offering of the hair, but also they 
will offer the child to the Ganges, casting it into the river, 
leaving it unsupported for an instant, and then catching it 
up again before any harm comes to it. 1 This may be 
repeated seven times. Occasionally the child is caught up 
by a Brahman and bought back by its parents. 

When the birth-pains begin, the woman is given ghi to 
eat and water, in which urd has been soaked, to drink ; 
or, a coin is washed in water and the liquid is given to the 
patient. A copper coin is placed in the woman's mouth, 
and pice are offered to the various godlings. At the right 
of the bed (charpai), upon which the woman will rest, 
barley is scattered for Shasti. At the door of the delivery- 

1 There may be in this act some reminiscences of an earlier 
barbarous practice. 


room thorny branches of bel and of ndgphani are hung to 
intercept evil spirits. A fire is kept burning constantly in 
the room near the door, and into it ajwain (seeds of a plant 
of the dil species) and other things are occasionally cast. 
Sometimes an old shoe is burned. If the birth-pains are 
excessive, or if delivery is delayed, men and women pound 
clods of earth together. 

The woman sits on her heels on the ground during her 
accouchement and is supported by her female relatives. 
After birth, a song called the sohar, which is mostly an 
invocation of Sitald Mdta, is sung by the women of the 
neighbourhood. The singing is kept up more or less con- 
tinually until the evening of the sixth day. The tawd (a sort 
of frying-pan) is beaten to protect the child from demons. 
In case a daughter has been born, the singing, or the 
beating of the tawa, may be neglected. The custom 
varies over the country, and in some parts almost as much 
protection is given to a girl as to a boy. Still, there is less 
rejoicing at her birth than at that of a son. In some 
places the mark of the hand in red-lead or in gobar (cow- 
dung) imprinted on the side walls of the house signifies 
that a son has been born. A line drawn on the wall all 
the way around the house signifies the same thing. 
Many devices used to protect the mother and the child are 
employed with greatest care if a son has been born. A 
net, or a branch of a mm tree, or of the siris, and an iron 
ring may be fastened over the door. It is good to hang 
up a bunch of mango leaves over the door because it will 
attract some godling who will protect the child. 1 Charms 
are stuck on the walls of the house. A fire is lighted in 
the room near the threshold and kept burning night and 
day. As soon as the child is born, the mother's face is 
washed, and her forelocks, or her hair, are let down. 
Then the navel cord is cut, and the child is rubbed with 
dust from a sun-dried granary or with wheat flour, and 
bathed in lukewarm water. The new-born child is often 
placed on a winnowing fan, and sometimes upon a bed of 
rice. This is afterwards given to the midwife. The 

Punjab Notes and Queries III, 188, 


mother receives a warm bath. Sometimes the mother is 
not bathed until the sixth day, although she may receive 
a partial bath at a previous time set by the Brahman. 
The cord and placenta are buried in the house near the 
door to prevent their coming into the possession of an 
animal, or of an evil spirit, or of a magician ; and over this 
spot in the house a fire is kept burning for six or more 
days. Some hide the cord in the house. The falling of 
the scab of the cord is watched with great care, and the 
particle is disposed of cautiously ; most likely it is buried 
inside the house, lest it come into the possession of a bhut, 
of a woman, or of a wizard. If a woman eat it, the child 
will die, but she will obtain children. If a wizard, or a 
witch, get possession of it, the child is sure to be ruled by 
their spells. If an evil spirit get it, the child will be 

The announcement of the birth of a child is made by 
the midwife, or by a barber woman, or by a female rela- 
tive, who does so by going to the house of the headman of 
the village and to the relatives of the family, and making a 
mark (swastika) on their doors with cow-dung. She 
receives a small fee for this. She also makes a mark on a 
shrine to Sitala. If the child is born on an unauspicious 
day, a Brahman is called to perform a fire-sacrifice. Wood 
from thirty-six different trees is brought in for the purpose. 
The father sits in front of the fire during the ceremony. 
A cup of sarsorii (mustard) oil is placed in front of the 
father, and the child is placed on his shoulder, so that the 
father may see his face reflected in the oil. After this ser- 
vice the father may look into his child's face. If no un- 
favourable conditions appear at birth, he may look at the 
child at once. 

On the first day after a birth, a Brahman is consulted. 
He inquires in what direction the mother lay ; how many 
women were present; and asks other similar questions, con- 
cerning the birth of the child. He then casts a horoscope, 
gives the name, and fixes a day for the purifying bath. 

Strict seclusion is practised for an indefinite period, 
during which no one but the midwife and an old woman 
of the family are allowed in the lying-in room. During 


the six to fourteen days of her impurity, the mother is 
attended by these women only. 

The midwife receives a wage of four pice when she cuts 
the cord, and four pice and some grain, usually barley, 
when she washes the baby. Besides this, she expects such 
wages and presents as the father may choose to give. 
Nowadays the fees are being increased, and in the cities 
the services of the midwife are fairly expensive. 

After delivery, before the mother is given anything to 
eat, a quantity of gur is offered to the sainted dead. In 
the Central Provinces 1 the mother receives food neither on 
the day of delivery nor on the next two succeeding days ; 
but, usually, after the mother and child have been bathed, 
the mother receives a special kind of food. This is a gruel 
made of a mixture of spices, gur, and oil. The food given 
to the mother, in the Central Provinces, 2 consists of a con- 
coction of ginger, roots of oral or khaskhas grass, areca 
nut, coriander, turmeric, and other hot substances, and 
sometimes a cake of linseed or sesamum. 

If her family is well-to-do, the mother will receive a 
helping of this gruel several times a day for twelve days. 
Besides this, she may receive milk two or three times a day. 
Food consisting of turmeric and ginger cooked in oil is 
served, usually from the sixth day. She receives ordinary 
food on the second day, or aftersix days, or after twelve days, 
according to the financial circumstances of the family. 

The child is put to the breast on the third day, unless 
a Brahman 3 orders that this be done sooner. In some 
places before being put to the breast, the child is given a 
decoction made by boiling some roots in calf's urine. 4 

The child is not clothed for four or five days, and then 
the swaddling-clothes used should be borrowed from 
another person's house, or brought by relatives. 

During the first six days the mother and child are 
never left alone, and someone is on guard every night lest 
some evil spirit obtain an opportunity to do harm. During 
this whole time the mother wears an iron ring, or an iron 

1 Russell, Tribes 'and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, 
Vol. II. p. 413. '/to*., Vol. II. p. 413. Ibid., Vol. II. p. 413. 
* Ibid. t Vol. II. P. 413. 


instrument of some kind is kept under her pillow. The 
mother and child rest in the bed during the whole period 
of impurity, and the iron instrument with which the cord 
was cut is kept near the mother. The midwife, the 
mother, and the babe are considered unclean or tabu, and 
are not allowed to touch the food of the others. 

On the night before the sixth day, the whole household 
sits up and watches over the child ; for, on that day, his 
destiny is determined, especially as to immunity from 
small-pox and other dangerous diseases. He is carefully 
fed ; for, if he go hungry then, he will be stingy all his 
life. This day of purification is called the chhatthi, and 
the ceremonies should be performed on the sixth day after 
delivery, Chhatthi or Shasti is the guardian goddess of 
children, who protects them from infantile diseases. Until 
they attain to maturity, children are supposed to be under 
her special care. She is regularly worshipped by women ; 
and, when children are ill, her aid is invoked to effect the 
recovery. At this time her worship is especially efficacious 
in preventing lockjaw, a disease which not infrequently 
attacks infants about this time. 

During the sixth night, the women do not sleep, but 
keep up singing and music, the beating of drums, and noise 
generally. They take special pains to protect the lamp 
which is burning, lest a peculiar insect (janua) put it out. 
If this should happen the child would die. Shasti is wor- 
shipped in the following way. On the wall, on both sides of 
the door, a square of cow-dung is made, in which one or 
seven broom-splints are fixed. This figure is called Shasti, 
and to it the women offer cakes of barley-flour and rice boiled 
in sugar. The child is now anointed with oil and lamp- 
black is put around its eyes. It is clothed and placed before 
the image ; or the woman worships the image. The cakes 
are then presented on leaf platters and eaten by the menials* 
of the family. Halwd is offered and sent to relatives. Oh 
(his day the legs of the bed are worshipped. 

Other precautions are taken against disease. The 
child is sometimes branded 1 on the stomach on the sixth 

1 Russell, Tribes and Caste* of the Central Provinces of India , 
Vol. II. p. 4J3, The practice \B fofgrgog jg other p|ces. 

1'KXril. DK \\Vl\tlS OF SU \*ri (1 \N"D 2) VN OF SMONV (3) 


(A little under actual size.) 


day, or on the day when it is named ; occasionally twenty 
or more burns are made on the abdomen with the 
point of a sickle to prevent the child's catching cold ; 
castor oil is rubbed on him to prevent convulsions and 
lung trouble ; and sometimes he is held in the smoke of 
the fire. 

If at any time there be suspicion of the influence of the 
evil eye, a wave ceremony is performed. Mustard and dil 
seeds, or bran and salt, are waved around the mother's 
head and then thrown into a vessel containing fire. 
When all is consumed the vessel is upset, and the mother 
breaks it with her foot. She then sits with grain in her 
hand, while the household brass-tray is beaten, and the 
midwife throws the child into the air. Sometimes the 
baby is weighed in grain, which is then given to the priest 
or to the midwife. If they feel that the trouble is due to 
the influence of Jakhiya, the ear of a pig is cut and the 
blood is put on the forehead of mother and child. 

After the worship of Shasti, the mother and child are 
bathed. When the water for this purpose is heated, 
ajwain and nim leaves are thrown into it. The mother 
squats on a plank during the bath. Under the plank a 
pestle, or a plough-beam is placed ; or, if neither is at 
hand, a nail is driven into the ground under the plank. A 
cleansing draught, consisting of Ganges water and calf's 
urine, is then given to the mother. Sometimes the cleans- 
ing draught is composed of the five products of the cow 1 
together with Ganges water. First a little of this mixture 
is sprinkled about, and then the remainder is administered. 
Afterwards, when the Brahman directs, the Shasti marks 
are removed from the walls of the house, taken to a well, 
sprinkled with water and left. 

Besides the rites performed on the sixth day, similar 
ceremonies are carried out on the tenth, eleventh, or 
fourteenth day after birth : but more often on the twelfth. 
These are the final purificatory rites, after which the 
mother and child are considered clean. The house is then 
thoroughly swept and cleansed, and the room is sometimes 

1 P&fahgavya, 


Hped, The fire is removed from the lying-in-room, but 
afterwards is lighted again for three or five days. After 
the room has been Hped, incense consisting of onions, 
garlic, red pepper and bran is burned, or an old shoe may 
be cast into the fire. The pice which were offered to the 
godlings, when the birth-pains began, are now spent for 
batasas* which are distributed in the name of the child ; 
or gur may be given to the women who have helped. 
The husband's younger brother, or a sister, or the midwife, 
receives a gift of gur, and then takes the mother out of 
doors. Afterwards the mother takes grain on a brass 
platter to offer to the well. What is left of the grain is 
then given to the sweeper. She now bakes five loaves of 
bread and prepares a gruel, such as she received during the 
first days after her child was born, puts them in five 
places in the house, sprinkles water over them with her 
hand, and distributes them. After this she resumes her 
usual avocations. 

Frequently, on the twelfth day, a black goat is offered 
to Kali Devi, and a fire is lighted in her name. A feast 
(the Dasatan) is held. The father entertains his friends 
(the biradari), and the parents or the brothers of the mother 
send a coat and a yellow loin-cloth for her, and a red cap 
for the baby. Sometimes they send sweets, sataura, 2 
or achhwdni. 8 Feasts are often held on the seventh, tenth, 
and fourteenth days after the birth of a child. 

When the baby is six months old it is fed with grain 
(in the form of khtr, rice cooked in milk) for the first time, 
and a feast is given. It is a day of rejoicing. Sometimes 
a Brahman is called in on this day to announce a name for 
the child, although the name is often given on the day of 
birth, and sometimes on the day of the chhatthi ceremony. 
The name given is often that of the day of the week on 
which the child was born ; and, if he was born at the time 
of some religious festival, he may receive a name referring 
to that. The name usually given is one pleasing to the 
parents. Many give the child two names. The one 

1 A kind of sweetmeat. 

3 Somf made from ginger, spices and gur. 

8 Ginger, ajwain, etc. 


obtained from the Brahman is kept secret for two reasons : 
first, because the child is thereby preserved from the 
magician's art and from evil influences generally ; and, 
second, because he is more likely to be passed over by the 
angel of death* The second name is given by the parents, 
or by some old person of the family, and is the one 
commonly used. A feast is held and offerings are made 
to the sainted dead. 

The sickness or death of either the mother or the child 
is attributed to the influence of evil spirits or of the evil 
eye. In case of illness, a wizard is called in to identify the 
evil spirit and to give directions as to what should be done 
to appease the demon. In former times, children dying at 
birth or in infancy were buried near the door, either in the 
floor or in the wall, so that the spirit might re-enter the 
mother's womb. In some places in the Central Provinces a 
stillborn child, or one dying before the sixth day, is placed 
in an earthen pot and buried in the court-yard, or under 
the doorway, and no funeral feast is held. Two ends are 
secured: witchcraft is forestalled and (they believe) another 
child will be born in the home. Occasionally, when the 
children of the family die one by one, a dying child is 
buried while still alive, so that the demon that besets the 
family may be buiied with it. Usually, stillborn children 
are buried or cast into a river. The bodies of children 
over five years of age are cremated, except that the body 
of an unmarried child is not burned. A mother dying in 
child-birth becomes a Churel. Nails are driven into her finger 
nails and.toenails, and powdered chillies are put into her 
eyes. Sometimes, when death occurs within ten days of 
delivery, a nail is driven into the door-post immediately 
after the corpse is taken out of the house. These are 
devices to prevent the return of the ghost to her former 

Some peculiar superstitions prevail about certain irregu- 
larities at birth, and later. When a breech case occurs, 
it is believed that one parent will die soon, or that the 
child is likely to be killed by lightning ; but, on the other 
hand, a person who suffers from backache may be cured if 
his back be touched with the feet of a child born thus. If 


the baby is born with teeth, it is believed that some crime 
will overtake the family, or that someone will die. To 
avert calamity word is sent to the maternal grandparents to 
send silver teeth. When the maternal uncle brings the 
teeth, he goes to the back of the house and throws them 
over the building so that they will fall at the door. In the 
olden time steps were taken to destroy such a child, for it 
was said that a cannibal (rdkshas) had been born. Some- 
times, when a child is born with protruding teeth, these 
are broken. If the upper teeth come through first, it is 
believed that some near relative on the mother's side will 
die in short time. Making a baby sleep towards the foot 
of a charpai tends to make the upper teeth appear 
first. Up to the sixth month no child should be lifted 
above one's head, lest calamity ensue ; for an evil spirit 
may secure an opportunity to do harm. When a child 
cries a good deal they believe that it is likely to die soon, 
and, as a preventive, they pierce the nose. There are a 
variety of opinions as to whether twins are auspicious or 
not. If they be of opposite sex, the general feeling is that 
they are unlucky, but if both be of the same sex, their 
birth is fortunate. 

There is no special ceremony at the time of puberty, 
and, therefore, no proper initiatory rite. Some say that 
after the purificatory ceremonies have been performed and 
his hair has been cut, a boy may be considered a member 
of the caste. Others maintain that from the time that the 
milk-teeth fall out, or from about the eighth year, he may 
be considered a Chamar. Others say that the marriage is 
the initiatory rite. Still others say that until a boy's ears 
are bored lie may not join in such social festivities as smok- 
ing the huqqa. Usually, when a child is from five to seven 
years of age, his ears are pierced. Sometimes this is done at 
birth, or soon after. If he grow up with his ears unbored, 
he usually pierces them himself. A boy should not marry 
before his ears have been pierced. When a boy obtains 
recognition as a member of the biradari, he must conform 
to the social usages of his caste. 

The case of girls is considered much, more carefully. 
The first signs of puberty (siydnapan) are watched for 


most seriously, especially by the mother ; and when these 
appear the girl is kept in a dark corner of the house. She 
will try to hide herself and to keep away from her friends 
and neighbours. She leaves her hair unkempt. This is a 
regular custom. At the first appearing of the menses, she 
must keep out of the sight of men ; and she is secluded for 
four days, during which time no one touches her, not even 
her sisters, and she must not touch the food nor the cook- 
ing-vessels. Some say that she must not touch the thatch, 
nor trees, nor plants ; that she must avoid the shadows of 
other persons ; that she should carry a knife ; and that she 
must not look upon the sun, a cat, or a crow, nor into the 
sky. Her food should consist of things prepared with 
sugar, curds, and tamarinds. She must not touch salt. 
On the fourth or the fifth day all of her clothes, and such 
clothing as she has touched, are washed. Then, accom- 
panied by women, she goes to the village tank to bathe. 
On the way back she steps over a pestle. The seclusion 
enforced all this time is due to the superstitious fear of 
menstrual blood ; the girl is tabu. 

Adoption is effected in the following manner: After 
the panchayet has agreed to the proposal, the parents give 
the boy to those wishing to adopt him, with words about 
as follows : "You are my son by a deed of evil (pdp), now 
you are the son of so-and-so by a virtuous act (dharm)." 1 
As the boy is accepted, members of the caste sprinkle rice 
over him ; and then his foster-parents give a feast. All 
rights are made over to the new guardians, who are nearly 
always relatives of the boy. A gift, sometimes amounting 
to ten rupees, is made to pay the expenses of a feast for 
the biradari and for liquor. 

1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. II. p. 179. 



IN making marriage arrangements Chamars, with some 
exceptions, do not employ barbers unless they be barbers 
of their own caste. When the parents decide, after the 
men of the family have talked it over, that a marriage 
should be arranged for a son, or for a daughter, they look 
about for a suitable mate for the child. When a desirable 
companion has been discovered, a go-between (agua, 
bichwam, bichauniyd bichwcti) is appointed to carry on 
negotiations between the two families, and to make prelimi- 
nary examinations as to the physical fitness of the two 
children. He makes a report to each family concerned. 
This agent may be a relative or a friend of either party. 

After the preliminary inquiries (belt chit) by the go- 
between, or match-maker, have been reported, the fathers 
of the two parties make similar inquiries themselves. At 
this time the family pedigrees and the gots are gone 
into. If an agreement is reached, a Brahman is consulted 
to ascertain whether the arrangements made are auspicious, 
and to fix the time for the betrothal proper. The girl's 
father then gives a rupee, or some such amouut, as earnest- 
money to the father of the boy. This amount is some- 
times placed in the boy's hand. Refreshments consisting 
of crude country liquor are then served; in some cases this 
is paid for by the boy's representatives. Sometimes sugar is 
distributed, and the party is entertained. 

The betrothal (sagai, maikgni, barekhi, barachha) 
follows. The girl's father, with male relatives and friends, 
goes to the boy's home to make arrangements. He then 
gives a rupee, and makes a mark (tika) on the boy's fore- 


head with rice and curds, or turmeric, saying, "I have 
given you my daughter." This rupee is the sign (nisdni) 
that the engagement has been made. [In some places four 
pice of the old coinage (kachchd paisd) are given and in 
others a rupee and a loin-cloth.] 1 [Some give two and 
a-half yards of cloth and a sum of from five to twenty- 
five rupees. After the placing of the tika upon the boy's 
forehead, the bichauniya says, "This union which the 
elders have made may Parmeshwar cause to turn out 
well." The boy then stands up with the cloth and the 
rupees in his hands and salutes his elders, and they in turn 
say, " May you live long." The boy then takes the cloth 
and rupees to his mother, who is in the house behind with 
other women who are singing and beating drums. The 
boy's father gives the company sweets and liquor. -The 
women of the clan join in music and singing. The boy 
is then seated in the east, or west, as the Brahman may 
direct, and receives the nteani from the hands of the 
priest (Brahman), or from some relative of the girl. The 
men repair to the village liquor-shop, or liquor is brought. 
Sometimes the boy's father distributes sugar to the head- 
men, and to the Chamars of the village, as proof of the 
mamgni ; and occasionally he feeds the clan. That night 
the boy's father gives a dinner (ddwat) to the girl's father 
and friends ; but immediately after the feast each of those 
who have come from the girl's house gives a rupee or two 
to the boy in payment for the food. In the morning they 
return home, giving the boy another rupee before they 
start. ] 

[In some parts of the United Provinces the regular 
betrothal takes place at the village liquor-shop. On a day 
agreed upon by the parties concerned, the fathers of the 
young pair meet and exchange cups of liquor five or seven 
times. At the last round the father of the prospective 
bride puts into the cup from which the other drinks, a 
rupee. This ceremony, called piydld (cup), is the binding 
element in the betrothal. The persons present now 

1 This account of the marriage customs is based primarily upon 
reports from Jaiswars. The more detailed alternate practices of other 
sub-castes are placed in square brackets. 


proceed to pass liquor around freely. Money is collected 
on the spot by those belonging to the girl's party, and this 
is supplemented by donations from the others.] 

At the time of the betrothal the girl may be but six 
months old, or even younger. In earlier times tentative 
arrangements were sometimes made even before the birth 
of a child. 

The mamgni is all but irrevocable. Either party, how- 
ever, may break an engagement, with the consent of the 
council (panchayat), by paying twenty-two rupees, or some 
such sum, part of which goes to the chaudhari, and the 
rest to the other party to the mamgni. The causes for 
which a betrothal may be broken are strife between the 
families concerned, or the discovery of an incurable disease 
or of an infirmity in either the boy or the girl. 

Some time after the mamgni has been performed, 
usually when the milk-teeth fall out, or the girl is 
about eight years of age, her parents send a letter 
fixing the date for the marriage. This is followed 
by gifts of nine yards of cloth and two and a- 
half or five or ten seers of grain, two betel nuts, some 
grains of rice dyed yellow, five pieces of turmeric and 
a sheet of paper with the order of ceremonies written 
upon it. When these things are brought the boy's father 
calls his relatives and the chief men of the biradari together 
and announces that the lagan has come. The groom is 
then called and the paper together with a rupee are placed 
in his hands, gur is distributed, and a feast is given to the 
friends. The boy's father, with male relatives [in some 
places a relative and the go-between], then goes to the 
prospective bride's home bearing gifts in shallow baskets. 
These presents consist of five seers of rice, five seers of 
sugar, mango and tilli wood for the fire-sacrifice, and 
sacred grass, betel nut, haldi, sindfir, coarse white thread 
and two loin-cloths each six or seven yards in length. 
When these things have been received the chaudhari is 
called in to open the baskets and show the presents. 
When evening comes on, the girl's father gives a rupee 
to the boy's father in order that the latter may be 
willing to share in the feast which is being prepared. 


For this dinner rice, dal, meat, and bard, phulaun and 
special oil-cakes (dustl) are served. The cakes are baked 
double. There is some drinking. The well-to-do have 
dancing exhibitions (nach) also. The women and girls 
join in singing special obscene songs, in which the 
abuse is directed towards the visiting party. The next 
morning a Brahman is called in to fix the time for the 
marriage ceremonies. He draws his figures on the 
ground, using wheat or barley flour, and proceeds to 
announce the times for the various parts of the wedding 
ceremony, such as the cutting of the wood, the cleaning 
and grinding of the grains for the feasts and ceremonies, 
the invitations (neotd), the mat matiigra ceremony, the 
erection of the marriage pavilion, the anointing of the 
bride and groom, the pre-wedding feast (bhaktawdn) , and 
the bhdihwar, or phera. He then prepares a fire-sacrifice, 
using the wood brought by the boy's relatives. Into the 
sacred fire ghi, sandal wood and incense are offered by 
the girl, as the priest directs, and she calls upon the 
Ganges and other gods as he names them to her. 
Then the Brahman ties a kathgnd, which he has made on 
the spot, around the right wrist of the girl. The kamgna 
is made of chaff and rye and anise-seed (sautiij) bound in 
cloth with yellow thread, e.g., thread coloured with haldi. 
Into this kamgna an iron ring is tied. The Brahman then 
puts sacred grass (ku$) into the hands of the girl, and the 
boy's father places a gift in her hands, which she in turn 
puts into the square which was drawn for the sacrifice, and 
sprinkles water over it. The priest takes the gift and 
then leaves the house. After another meal the visitors 

On this day announcements of the dates for the 
wedding festivities are made. Two lumps of coarse sugar 
are sent to each family which is to be invited to the 
wedding. The bearer of the gur announces the dates. 
The woman who bears the invitation sits outside the 
mahalla and sends word that she has come to announce 
the wedding. The women come out, singing, to receive 
her and bring her in. She then gives the invitation and 
distributes the sugar. 


[An alternative practice is as follows : A Brahman is 
summoned to the door of the girl's house. Early that 
morning the father and the girl have both bathed. 
A place has been Hped in front of the house and a 
chauk traced on it with flour. The patd on which 
the girl sits is placed over this. The Brahman sits at 
the right-hand and the father at the left-hand corner. 
And a new pot (kord) of water is placed outside the 
square in front of the girl. The people of the village, 
who have been summoned by the barber, are present. 
The Brahman recites some mantras and then proceeds 
to write the lagan, which is a document fixing an 
auspicious day for the Sadi. He then puts five betel 
nuts, a handful of rice, a piece of turmeric and fifteen rupees 
on to the lagan, and rolls it up and ties it with string,. 
Five suits of clothes are also given, and the girl's 
paternal uncle (ckachd) adds from two to five rupees, and 
her father's sister's husband (phuphd) the same sum. The 
Brahman's fee is one rupee and half a seer otchana from the 
father of the girl, and one rupee sent to him by the father of 
the boy, when the lagan has been delivered. The lagan is 
sent to the boy's house by the girl's father, by the hand of 
men whom he, in order that they might get their clothes 
washed, had warned eight or ten days before that this 
service would be expected of them. The girl's father also 
goes himself and her phupha and the bichauniya and three 
or four others. With the lagan are sent as many rupees 
as were given at the mamgni and a suit of clothes for the 
mother of the boy. When the lagan arrives at the boy's 
village, his father sends around a bhamgi (sweeper) with 
a drum (dhol) to announce the arrival and summon the 
villagers. As soon as they assemble an' announcement is 
made of the value of the gifts sent, and the boy 
receives them with much the same ceremony as 
in the case of the marhgni and takes them to his 
mother. As soon as this is over, the father of the boy 
produces five behtts of gur and one to three rupees' worth 
of batasas. Half a behli is given to those who have come 
from the girl's house; they take it to the chaupal (a public 
hall), where they eat it and smoke. The people belonging 


to the village eat the rest of the sweets at the boy's house. 
That night those who have come from the girl's house are 
entertained, but give two rupees in payment for their food, 
and place two rupees more in the boy's hands when they 
depart next day. All night long the women sing, while 
two or three of them in turn sit at one side and cook 
pud (dtd, flour, cooked in oil) in a large iron vessel (karhdt). 
In the morning they go into the village and distribute it 
from house to house.] 

On the days appointed, the following marriage prelimi- 
naries are carried out in both homes. 

On the day set for the mat maihgrd, or mat kor, or 
magic earth ceremony, relatives and friends come with 
gifts of grains, wood, clothing, oil and sweets. They 
come singing and beating drums. Then the women, 
including the mother of the bride, or groom, take a brass tray, 
or a basket, with sugar, pulse or gram (chana) and a one- 
wicked lamp (chirdg) and go in procession to the village 
clay-pit. They are preceded by a Chamar beating a drum. 
The women sing as they go. Then they worship the 
drum, marking it with red-lead (tika). They mark seven, 
or five, places about the pit with mustard-oil and red-lead 
(sindur). Seven, or five, women are then chosen, each of 
whom takes a clod of earth from one of the places so 
marked, and puts it into a basket. They then distribute 
the sugar amongst themselves, after which the mother 
carries home the seven clods of clay. From this earth is 
made the fireplace for the cooking of the marriage feast ; 
and in some places the family grindstone is repaired from 
some of the same clay. In some places the earth is brought 
without any ceremony. On this day the women go to the 
potter's house, with presents of grain, worship his wheel, 
and get the earthen pots used for furnishing the marriage 
pavilion and for use in the house. In this connection 
Burhd Bdbd is worshipped. In some places a special pot 
(kalsd) is ornamented and set in the thatch. 

The mdihdhd) mdihro, or marriage pavilion, is erected 
on the day that the magic earth is brought home. Some- 
times the maihdha is set up on the day when the 
barat comes. A grass rope is made by a maternal uncle 


and hung over the doorway of the house, and sometimes a 
winnowing fan is hung against a doorpost. In the court- 
yard, in front of the house, four (in the hill country some 
use nine poles of the siddh tree) bamboo posts are set up 
and a thatch is built over them. This pavilion is large 
enough to seat from twenty-five to thirty persons. In some 
places, two green bamboos are set up to support an awning 
of thatch which is attached to the house above the door, 
and occasionally but one post is used. Sometimes five 
plows are planted to form the shed. On each side of the 
door earthen vessels of water are set. Into one rice, and 
into the other pulse, is thrown. Mango leaves are also 
used. Earthen lids are put upon both vessels. The 
necks of the jars are bound with yellow and red threads, 
and each is tied to a bamboo post with a rope of grass into 
which mango leaves are bound. In the centre of the 
pavilion many things are set up, but local custom deter- 
mines which of these articles shall be used. A green 
bamboo and a plow-beam are set up by five men. Under 
the bamboo two pice, two pieces of turmeric, two betel 
nuts and rice are buried. The plow-beam is worshipped 
as it is set up, and the maternal aunt places her hand-impres- 
sion upon the beam five times in a paste of ground haldi and 
rice. She also puts her hand-print upon the backs of the 
five men who set up the pavilion. Mango feaves and a 
kamgna are bound upon the plow-beam. In some places 
a small earthen pot, bound with grass, is attached to the 
beam. This pot is ornamented with crossed lines made 
with rice flour and turmeric. Five marks are made upon 
the beam with red-lead, and a brass pot, or an earthen one, 
is placed beside the beam. The log used to break the 
clods in the plowed field is often set up also. A lamp is 
bound to this log. In many places a branch of the 
dhdk tree is erected. Against the supports of the 
mamdha, a sil and battd, the stones used for grinding spices, 
are placed. Sometimes a rolling-pin (belan) is used. 
Along with the plow-beam a marriage-ceremony pole 
(stiga) is often set up. This is made of mango wood. 
To it are attached branches having rude wooden figures 
of parrots perched upon them. " After the wedding 






there is a general scramble for the wooden parrots, but the 
pole is carefully kept for a year." In the pavilion an 
earthen vessel (kalsa) is placed. This is decorated with 
lines of cow-dung horizontally and vertically drawn. In 
these lines grains of barley are stuck. Some place a pot 
near the plow-beam, partly fill it with water, and then put 
in oil and a wick and light it. Or a cover is placed over 
the vessel and a wick lighted in this. Green mango- 
leaves are inserted between the vessel and the cover. The 
poles of the pavilion are hung with coarse white threads 
in which mango-leaves are bound. The gobar remaining 
from plastering the floor of the mamdha, or a piece of cow- 
dung, is left in the shed. The pavilion at the bride's house 
only is thatched. The roof is made of sarpat, a coarse 
grass. [Some Jatiyas set up a plow-beam in the courtyard 
at the bride's house, put a pot, marked with white lines, on 
the top of the beam, and stretch a Sdmiyana, or canvas, 
on this. They do not set up a bamboo with the plow- 
beam, nor is the beam worshipped or marked with red-lead. 
The pot on the plow-beam represents the head of the 
Babraban, a rishi whom Krishna feared, and consequently 
slew. The rishi said, " I have not seen the fight"; so 
Krishna said, " You shall be at all weddings, and see them 
at the bride's house." In the groom's house seven earthen 
platters with puris sandwiched in, and a hole bored through 
them, are hung up in the pavilion. A rope is put 
through the hole and the platters are tied to a bamboo, 
which is set up instead of the plow-beam. Two pice are 
buried beneath the bamboo. No canvas is spread.] 

On the evening of the day when the magic earth is 
brought home, and the pavilion is set up, the Brahman is 
called to the girl's house. He prepares a fire-sacrifice, 
this time offering in the fire the things which had been 
brought from the home of the groom for the anointing 
(ubtan) of the girl for the wedding. He mixes 
mustard oil with turmeric and barley flour (one half 
of the flour is parched and the other half is not) 
for the anointing, and touches her forehead and shoulders 
with the mixture, using sacred grass (dub) for the purpose, 
This fire-sacrifice takes place in the mamdha, 


In the courtyard a square is covered with cow-dung 
and marked out with crossed and recrossed lines of slaked 
lime. Upon this a low four-legged stool (ptrhd) or a 
plank (patra) is placed. The legs of the stool are bound 
with coarse coloured thread. An earthen vessel of water is 
brought. This also is bound with coloured threads. Then 
a small vessel for pouring water, and then the vessel con- 
taining the anointing mixture are brought. These 
also are decorated with threads. The bride is now led 
out and seated upon the stool. In some places she wor- 
ships the goddess in the courtyard, before taking her 
place here. In other places, seven women, seven times 
each, sprinkle her head with the mixture with dub grass. 
Often the bride's feet are washed, ceremonially, with water, 
and water is poured around her on the ground. Then 
water is poured over her and she is rubbed again. (This 
may be done only on the day of wedding, at the time of 
the last anointing.) Then the women-folk rub the girl 
thoroughly from head to foot with the mixture of oil and 
turmeric. The Brahman then puts rice and gur in the 
bride's hands. Five unmarried girls sit down around the 
bride, and each of them in turn touches her toes, knees, 
and forehead, and then they kiss their hands. The mother 
then, taking a chadar, covers herself and her daughter with 
it, and leads the girl to a specially prepared space in the 
house ; or she is carried into the house. The gur and 
rice are then put down beneath a figure drawn on the 
wall, and the five girls come and distribute the gur amongst 
themselves. The rice that is deposited here is given to the 
maternal uncle after the wedding. This special place is 
prepared by a sister, or a maternal aunt of the girl. On 
the wall above the place, a rectangle known as the kohbar 
is drawn in red and white, with circles at the four corners. 
Within this figure, pictures of horses, elephants, birds or other 
objects are drawn in colours (red, yellow, green, white). 

A similar anointing ceremony is performed for the 
boy. In the ceremony unmarried girls assist just as for 
the bride. 

Six more times before the wedding each is anointed 
and led to the appointed place in the house, with rice and 


gur in their hands. The last anointing is usually per- 
formed on the day of wedding, but in some places these 
preliminary preparations are completed a number of days 
beforehand. In this case the anointing with oil takes 
place each morning. The women sing each night beginning 
on the day of the lagan. In other places the anointing 
begins, for the boy five days and for the girl three days 
before the wedding. The so-called " oiP 1 for the anoint- 
ing is composed of wheat, or barley flour, haldi, and water. 
With the present that is sent to the bride for the ubtan 
the balls formed from the " oil " as it was rubbed over the 
boy -are included. Each day, after the anointing (for 
both boy and girl) a brass platter is brought and on it 
sugar, rice, haldi and a lamp containing ghi are placed. 
.The platter is then waved before the candidate. Then five 
sweet cakes are placed in the child's lap and he throws 
them over his right shoulder. The cakes are caught by 
the sisters of the child, or by his father's sisters, in their 
clothes. Then the child is carried into the house. At this 
time the girl's hair is carefully unbraided by young girls. 

Some time during the day when the magic earth cere- 
mony is performed, seven women, who belong to the 
family, each take a pestle (musal) upon which coarse, 
unfinished red and yellow threads are wound, and with 
them they husk the rice used in the evening ceremonies. 
Sometimes but one pestle in used. 

On the day that the sacred earth is brought, a fire- 
place (chulhd) , open on four sides, is made. On the day 
before the wedding, this fireplace is set up in the pavilion. 
When the chulha for the wedding-feast is ready to light, 
four women lead the bride's (or groom's) sister's husband 
to the fireplace, where he offers ghi and sugar and then 
lights it. The women sing while this act is being per- 
formed and afterwards give the man four pice. Upon 
this fireplace a feast is cooked consisting of rice, pulse 
(dal), fritters (puri) made of wheat flour cooked in oil or 
ghi, a preparation of curds and ground gram (karhl phul- 
auri) and cakes of gram flour prepared in oil. This food 
is then served on five plates made of leaves. A pot, or a 
lamp, is now offered in the pavilion. This is the sacrifice 


of bhaktawan. Then one of the plates of food is given to 
the girl (or boy) and the other four are given to the 
parents and other near relatives, the rest of the food being 
served to the remainder of the company. [In other places 
the ceremony is as follows: Upon the new chulha, 
fritters (puri) are made. The first ten fritters, together 
with rice, sugar and a lamp with four wicks, are placed 
upon a brass tray and waved in a circle before the face of 
the boy (or girl). The tray is then put into the hands of 
the boy (or girl). The relatives who participate in this 
ceremony take the rice and sugar from the tray and throw 
it to the right and left. The boy (or girl) is then taken 
into the house, where some of the puris are given to him. 
At the same time a portion of the ten cakes is distributed 
among those present. A feast follows. While the dinner 
is in progress a quantity of liquor is put into a small 
earthen cup (kulhiyd) which is set in a hole in the floor 
of the pavilion, and the father then removes the cup with 
his teeth and drinks the liquor. There is some drinking 
during the meal. In the evening there is more feasting, 
and during the night a good deal of drinking is indulged 
in. As soon as the girl has finished her dinner, her 
mother places her hands over her eyes, and leads 
her to the village dung-hill, where the girl buries her 

[In some places, on the night before the groom's pro- 
cession leaves for the wedding, and just before dinner, the 
women take the groom into the house, call a potter, light 
a lamp filled with ghi, put fire before the lamp and then 
empty the ghi out of the lamp into the fire. The fire blazes 
up suddenly, and they say that Burha Baba has come and 
that he is well pleased. Gifts are then made to the potter, 
and he binds a kamgna on the wrist of the groom (or 
bride). The wedding-feast follows. On this day, up to 
the time of the dinner, the parents do not drink water, 
and they fast 1 until the dinner is served on the wedding- 

1 Those who fast are the maternal uncle, the father, the mother 
the brother, the paternal uncle, and the mother'? sifter's husband. 


On the morning of the wedding-day the girl (or boy) 
may receive the last anointing. The father's sister's 
husband, called negi, hollows out a place in the court- 
yard of the house. Here the boy is made to stand while 
he is bathed. The father makes a small present to the 
negi. Beside the boy is set a winnowing-fan (silp) , in which 
his relatives and friends place their offerings, sugar, rice 
and money. This is all taken by the negi. The boy is 
then bathed. The first water that is poured over the 
boy's head is caught in an earthen vessel. This water is 
preserved to be taken to the bride's home for use in her 
preparatory ablutions. After the boy has dressed himself, 
he is led to the pavilion and seated in a square already 
prepared by his uncle's wife. This woman then puts 
lampblack (kajal) into his eyes, and marks his forehead 
and temples with a paste made of ground rice. Then the 
negi pretends to cut the boy's finger nails and toenails. While 
this is going on the relatives drop coins into a brass pot 
(thdli) of water which has been placed in front of the boy. 
A crown (w0wr, tdj) is placed on the groom's head by a 
male relative. This is worn during the succeeding cere- 
monies until the marriage is completed. The women sing 
during this and during most of the preliminary ceremonies. 
Puris are prepared in the boy's home. Seven women, 
each taking two puris, together with a piece of sugar, go 
seven times around the marhdha, with the left side towards 
it, unwinding coarse white thread (kukari) as they go. 
The boy and the mother sit in the marhdha during this 
ceremony. After each round the boy takes a bite out of 
each puri. At the seventh round, his mother's brother 
puts bits of the puri and water from the pot in the 
martidha into the mother's mouth. She tries to gulp all 
this down. This is called Imti ghoihtat. In some places 
the central fibre of a mango leaf is used in place of pieces 
of puri. Five girls take rice and sugar in their hands and 
touch the groom's feet, knees, forehead and temples, and 
then kiss these articles. The boy is led to the kohbar, under 
which he places the rice and sugar, and then the latter is 
distributed amongst the women. After the marriage the 
rice is given to the negu The boy is then conducted to 



the place where the men are to eat and drink before start- 
ing to the bride's house. After this meal an exhibition of 
dancing is given by Chamar men, specially called for this 
purpose. Some of the dancers are dressed as women. 
These exhibitions are not of an elevating nature. The 
performers accompany the groom's procession to the 
bride's house. The groom either walks in the procession, 
or is carried on someone's shoulder, or rides on a horse or 
in a doll. 

Before the groom's party leaves, the mother performs a 
wave ceremony. She first makes seven lamps (chirag) of 
flour, places them in a winnowing-fan, and waves it seven 
tftnes about the boy's head. She then throws the lamps 
in seven directions. One of the dancers now seizes the 
fan and throws it over his head backwards. The fan is 
then taken into the house. She then waves a Iota of 
water seven times about his head, pouring a little upon 
the ground each time. Likewise a pestle, a grinding- 
stone (batta), and his mother's chadar are waved about 
his head. Sometimes a wave ceremony is performed with 
a four-wicked lamp in a brass tray. 

The mother then goes to the village well and sits 
down upon the curb, or even puts her feet over the edge 
of it. She does this with the pretence of destroying 
herself because her son will neglect and fail to support 
her after he is married. The boy then comes to the well, 
walks around it seven times, and marks it with his fingers 
with rice-flour and turmeric. He then takes his mother 
home, comforting her by saying that he will continue to 
take care of her, and that he will bring her a barhdi 
laurhdi to serve her and to wait upon her. [In some 
places the party goes to the well. There a puri is pierced 
with an iron rod. The boy looks into the well and then 
shakes the puri off into the water. He then returns from 
the well and, at home, takes his mother's breast.] 

The groom now joins the procession. After they 
have paid their respects to the village godlings they start 
for the bride's home. He takes presents of clothes for 
the bride's male relatives (sometimes for the bride's 
sisters as well). The father is supposed to take a neck-ring 


(hathsli) and wrist-, ankle-, and ear-rings of metal for 
the girl. N[oisy music is a feature of the barat. With 
the marriage procession a special dance, sometimes 
obscene (natwdndch), is performed by male members of 
the tribe, some of whom dress in women's clothes. 

The wedding ceremonies are directed usually by some 
older relative, as the negi, but sometimes by a tnahant, or 
by a Brahman. In some places the groom's father's 
sister's husband directs the ceremony. 1 

As the actual marriage always takes place at night, at an 
hour fixed by the Brahman, the barat is timed to reach the 
bride's village late in the day. The marriage procession 
stops a short distance from the village, and drums are beaten 
and horns are blown to announce its arrival. At this time, 
in some places, the girl's father, with some near relatives 
and friends, goes out to meet the groom, and the barat is 
led to a specially- prepared place called the janwartis. 
Then the groom is led to the marhdha, or is carried there 
on someone's shoulders, that he may shake it. Or, when 
the groom arrives at the door of the bride's house, he is 
met by her mother, who performs a wave ceremony. She 
then places seven earthen saucers in her chadar and sits 
upon the ground. The groom is challenged to break all 
seven with a single kick, and is taunted as the eldest son of 
an old woman. He succeeds, however, in meeting the 
challenge. He is then returned to the place where the 
barat is waiting. A maternal uncle of the bride comes and 
washes the feet of five relatives of the groom. Or, this 
may be done before the groom's party is led to the resting- 
place. These men place their feet in a basin (thali) for 
this puipose. Then the negi brings gur and curds, with 
which he feeds five men, and after which he receives two 
dnds (neg). This man then brings and distributes cooked 
rice mixed with uncooked pulse (ufd kl ddT). In the 
eating of the uncooked dal there is a symbolical test of 
strength. The basket in which this food was brought is 
now broken. 

* Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. II. p. 181. 


While the barat is waiting for the wedding ceremony, 
the female relatives of the bride sing obscene songs, in 
which the abuse is directed towards the groom, his relatives 
and friends. The women indulge in obscene and coarse 
language also ; and cow-dung, mud and unclean things 
are thrown. 

After the negi has carried his gifts to the bridal party, 
the girl receives her bridal bath. A place is hollowed out 
in the courtyard, just as was done for the boy. The negi 
brings the water that was preserved from the boy's bath, 
and his wife pours it over the bride's head. Then the 
women bathe the girl, and she is dressed in the wedding- 
clothes brought by the groom's party for the purpose. The 
mother then offers her breast. The maternal uncle's 
wife anoints the bride's eyes with lamp-black, and puts 
a ring (haiiisli) about her neck. The nail-paring and the 
imli ghomtai ceremonies are performed. The girl is then 
conducted to the marriage pavilion and seated in a 
specially-prepared place. The bride is now seen for the 
first time by the groom's party, but her face is veiled. 

[In some parts of the country, a cock is brought and 
placed at the boy's feet. Sometimes its toes are cut off. 
Later it is offered to the sainted dead, and eaten.] 

The actual wedding ($ddi, biydh) then takes place. 
The groom is brought by his paternal uncle into the 
pavilion and seated at the left-hand side of the bride. 
[Or they are seated facing each other, the bride's face being 
covered with a paper mask with seven broom-splints fixed 
in it over her forehead.] The negi no\* performs a fire- 
sacrifice, and then the bride's near relatives worship the 
feet of the pair. A new brass tray (thali), filled with 
water, is brought. Against the edge of this the boy's 
right large toe and the girl's left great toe are tied together. 
The parents of the bride now dip sacred grass (ku&) and 
the corners of their loin-cloths (dhoti) in the water, touch 
the great toes of the pair, and then their own foreheads, 
repeating the act seven times ; and those who fast sip 
water from this foot-worship. Then presents, such as metal 
cooking-vessels, coins, and clothes, are given to the groom. 
This is the ceremony of giving away the bride, kanyadan. 


Then the parents step aside, while the boy comes in front 
of the bride and marks her forehead seven times with 
sindur and places in her lap a small metal box containing the 
same kind of red powder. This marking is done with the 
thumb and little finger of the right hand, and the marks 
extend up into the parting of the hair. This is called 
sindurddn. [Sometimes both the bride and groom 
have a red mark with a grain of rice in it imprinted upon 
their foreheads by their brothers-in-law. Then an unmar- 
ried girl is called. To her are given four anas, which she 
waves seven times over the bride's head.] 

The binding part of the wedding ceremony (bhamwar, 
pherd, biydh, Sadi) follows. The preceding ceremonies 
are planned so that this takes place after midnight, even 
as late as four o'clock in the morning, at the hour 
announced as propitious by the Brahman. 

Before the bride and groom were brought into the 
pavilion for the ceremonies just described, a square was 
drawn on the ground, in the marriage shed, with wheat and 
barley flour. In it diagonal and median lines were drawn. 
At the corners spoon-shaped decorations were made. In 
front of this chauk the bridal pair were seated. In this 
square a fire was lighted and in it offerings were made. 
During the ceremony which follows, the women sit in the 
pavilion and sing. The groom's maternal uncle also sits 
in the mamdha and other relatives of the bride may sit in it. 
Others of the bridal party sit outside. Then the circum- 
ambulation (phera) is performed in the marriage pavil- 
ion as follows : First the fire is covered with an earthen 
saucer. Then the brother of the bride puts rice in seven 
places upon the sil, and some parched, unhulled 
rice in his loin-cloth, and takes his stand in the 
maiiidha. The bride draws her chadar over her face. 
The corner of her veil is tied to the groom's clothes and in 
the knot two copper coins (pice) are enclosed. The boy 
then leads in circling about the beam, or pole, so that his 
left hand is next to it, seven times. Or each leads three 
and a-half times about the pole. Each time that the 
couple pass the bride's brother, he takes out of his loin- 
cloth, with a small round basket, a little of the parched rice, 


waves it over the heads of the couple once, and throws it 
on the ground (ddl mauni)* At the same time, the groom 
throws away a pile of rice from the sil. Or, while going 
around the pole the seven broom-splints are removed, one 
at each round, from the bride's mask. Before going around 
the pole the pair exchange shoes. The couple now 
return to their seats, but exchange places. The groom's 
elder brother, or some other relative, now throws coarse 
silk and cotton threads, of red colour (dhag bhat), which 
are tied together, over the bride's head. Then rice and 
sugar are put into the hands of each of them, and five 
young girls touch the toes, knees, shoulders, and foreheads 
of groom and bride with sacred grass, and kiss it. Other 
things are sometimes placed in her lap, such as plantains, 
cocoanuts, mangos, a lamp, or a boy. 

Immediately after the phera the couple are conducted 
by the women to the kohbar, where the bride's mother 
is sitting. Then they worship the threshold and eat 
together. The groom is stopped at the door by the bride's 
sister, who requests him to repeat a verse of some- 
thing. This he refuses to do until he receives a present. 
Then he recites the verse, takes off his shoes, and enters 
the house. If he is silent, or too nervous to speak much, 
the bride's sister may, as a joke, steal his shoes while he is 
inside and hide them, in order to compel him to speak and 
say, " Where are my shoes ? n Rice and sugar are placed 
before him, and then the bride's mother brings curds and 
sugar in a brass vessel, and the groom is required to par- 
take of it, and is even bribed to do so. He takes a small 
portion, pretends to touch it to the bride's lips, and eats it. 
The knot is now untied, and the bride remains in the 
house, while the groom returns to the barat. 

[In some parts of the country, the phera is performed 
a little differently. In the courtyard, in front of the marri- 
age pavilion, a quadrangle about two feet square is marked 
out with barley flour. In each corner a bamboo peg is 
driven. Around this quadrangle, thread is wound, usually 
at the time of the phera. On one side of the chauk, but 
not in front of the pavilion, sits the boy's uncle on his 
mother's side (mdmu), and on the opposite side of the 


quadrangle sits the girl's rnamu. Their seats are short- 
legged stools (pirha, pata). Within the quadrangle a 
platform of magic earth, or of cow-dung, is made. 
Sometimes a plow-beam is set up in the square. A fire of 
dhak wood is lighted in an earthen vessel (kalsa), set in 
the middle of the enclosure and worshipped. Ghi is 
offered in the fire. A similar offering is made in the fire 
in the deokuri. The names of the couple and also of their 
fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers on both 
sides are recited (gotrd uchhana). About this quadrangle 
the couple walk. This is the binding part of the 
ceremony. The girl is blindfolded. A corner of her 
chadar is tied to the boy's clothes. Then they circle about 
the fire in the direction of the course of the sun, three 
and a-half times, the boy ahead, led by his father's 
brothers-in-law, and three and a-half times, the girl ahead, 
with her father's brothers-in-law leading. As they go, 
they wind unfinished thread about the pegs of the 
quadrangle. During this part of the ceremony the 
company throw rice upon the pair.] 

[Then, in some places, a goat or a ram is sacrificed 
to Parameshwari Dem. The flesh of the slaughtered 
animal is cooked for the marriage feast.] 

After the phera follows the marriage feast. There is 
much drinking both at the place of the wedding and at 
the nearest liquor-shop, and much dancing and carousing 
continues until early morning. 

An illustration of the coarse joking that takes place at 
this time is the following: The bride's mother dresses in 
men's clothes and, going to the groom's father, addresses 
him as "wife." The subject of the conversation is 
exceedingly vulgar and the result is a good deal of mirth. 

The next day, or a little later, preparations for the 
departure of the bride and groom are begun. The couple, 
accompanied by the dancers of the groom's party, or the 
boy only, are taken by the bride's father to the village 
landlord. After the dancers have performed, the landlord 
makes a present (of from one to ten rupees in cash, or of 
cultivating rights) to the bride's father and then the party 
returns home. 


The brass vessel used in the foot-worshipping 
ceremony of the day before is then placed in the marhdha 
and the bride's relatives drop coins into it. These are 
collected by the bride's father and presented to the groom's 
father, in the brass tray. The bride is then prepared to 
go to the groom's home. And the bride's father says, 
" We have nothing else ; we give you our daughter. 
May no harm come to her." Liquor and parched gram 
are passed, and afterwards a midday meal is served. 
Then the groom's father gives to the bride's father a gift 
for servants' expenses. The bride is then dressed in her 
wedding garments. The wife of the negi (her relative) 
ties the bride's veil to the clothes of the groom and then 
the bride's mother performs a wave ceremony about the 
heads of the pair. This is similar to that for the groom 
before he started for the wedding. During this wave 
ceremony the groom hangs on to the veil of his mother- 
in-law and does not release it until she makes him a 

After the couple are seated in the conveyance, or are 
ready to start, the relatives of the groom return and shake 
the poles of the marhdha, and pretend to untie the strings 
holding up the thatch. Then a little rice and sugar and 
two pice are put into the bride's lap. The couple then 
enter an ekka, or some other conveyance, a bahli, a doli 
or a gan y and start for the husband's home. Or they go 
on foot. 

[In other parts of the country the ceremony is different. 
In the early morning, before the barat starts back to the 
boy's home, a bed, given by the girl's father, is brought 
out into the courtyard. Upon this the bride and groom 
are seated, and then they are covered with a sheet 
(symbol of the consummation of marriage). The bride's 
father then gives the groom a rupee and other presents, 
such as vessels and clothes. Others also make presents at 
this time. Each one who makes a present puts a tika on 
the boy's forehead. The gifts are presented in the grain- 
sieve (sup), or in a basket, or on a tray, and are placed 
upon the bed. When the boy gets up, his brothers-in-law, 
or his father's brothers-in-law, take up the presents for him. 


The groom then takes his place in the marriage pavilion, 
or in the janwarhs with one or two relatives. 

The bride's female relatives come from the house, and 
first wave pice in a circle before the groom, and then 
present them to him, salute him, and retire. Then the 
groom, after receiving a gift of about a rupee, unfastens 
one of the knots holding the roof of the mamdha 
(mdrtidhd-kulhal). The bride alone, or with the groom, 
then enters a conveyance of some sort. Thereupon her 
female relatives bring water from the house and wash her 
face. This is called kumwdrpan kd uthdnd. She is no 
longer a child. Then they throw rice upon her, and 
again, as the procession starts, rice is thrown ; and the 
boy's father throws money over the conveyance.] [After 
the barat has proceeded about a hundred yards, the two 
fathers embrace, having bared their breasts to do so, and 
the father of the bride gives seven rupees to the father of 
the groom and tells him that he will come after a few 
days to bring his daughter home.] 

When the bridal-party reaches the groom's home, the 
bride worships the feet of her mother-in-law (pdthw pujd), 
and sometimes, his brothers and sisters worship her feet. 
The bride arrives with her face covered, and, as the 
women of the groom's house come to look at her, they 
make small offerings. She is then led to the kohbar, 
where she is seated and given a little food. This is the 
sign of admission into the clan. In some parts of the 
country, care is taken that the bride in no way touches 
the threshold as she enters. Often, in connection with 
the eating of her first meal in her husband's house, she has 
to step over a number of baskets. 

A contest takes place at the kohbar. The necklace 
belonging to the bride is taken and thrown seven times at 
the square on the wall of the inner room and the couple 
struggle In some places, a similar play is performed 
on the day following the arrival of the bride at her new 
home. A karhgna is bound on the right wrist of the boy, 
with seven knots. In the same manner another is bound 
on the girl's wrist. Then, with their left hands, they 
untie each other's karhgna and the most expeditious one 


is declared the winner. Then both kamgnas, together 
with a pice, are dropped into a vessel of water (or of whey, 
or of diluted milk) by the boy's sister's husband, or the 
father's sister's husband, three or seven times, and the 
two grab for the coin each time. The one who secures 
the coin a majority of the times is declared the winner. 
These tests are supposed to give some indication of who 
shall be the ruler of the house. 

The next morning some food is prepared under the 
mamdha. This is placed on five plates, made of leaves. 
Then the mamdha is pulled down and taken in procession 
to the village tank, the bride and groom following, where 
water is sprinkled over it and it is buried. Then those 
who are present drink or wash their hands and faces in 
water taken in the earthen vessel which was placed in 
the mamdha on the day when it was built. When they 
have returned, the relatives of the groom partake of the 
food that was placed on the five leaf-plates. The bride's 
mother-in-law now takes the couple to call upon the 
women-folk of the village landlord. Then, after dancing 
and singing on the part of the hired entertainers, the bride 
receives gifts and the party returns home. 

[In other places, after the mamdha has been disposed 
of, the women take the bride and groom, tie their clothes 
together, and go to worship at cross-roads or at some place 
on a public highway. The bride carries in her hand 
a lota of water with a twig of mango in it. Both she 
and the groom carry sticks. A fire-sacrifice is made and 
puris are offered and then eaten by those who make up 
the party. Then the bride and groom enter into a mock 
fight with their sticks.] 

The midday meal follows. In this the whole biradri 
takes part. And in some places the rice remaining from 
the dinner is piled up on the floor and a piece of haldi is 
hidden in it. The bride is made to kick it over, and then 
the rice is distributed to the poor. 

The clothes of the pair are again tied together, a drum 
is beaten by a sweeper, and, with a brass tray of cakes 
and batasas carried before them, they proceed to the 
boundary of the village, to the place where the village 


godlings are worshipped, and there make an offering 
before fire. They go and come, singing noisily. When 
they return, a stick of dhak, or of the nim tree, or of the 
cotton plant, is given to each of them, and they beat each 
other seven times. 

A day or more after the arrival of the bridal-party at 
the groom's home a mock battle is fought. A person 
takes upon his head a brass tray in which gur is placed. 
A number are chosen to represent the bride and a similar 
choice is made for the groom. They now struggle for the 
possession of the brass tray. The groom's party finally 
wins. Thereupon the groom's father unties the fasten- 
ings of the marhdha. Then the bride's mother sprinkles 
red powder over the groom's party. On this day 
(or a few days later) the bride's father and her brothers 
come to take her back to her own home. The negi 
(boy's maternal uncle) receives them and washes their 
feet, and they give four pice and sometimes make 

When the barat starts with the bride, powdered 
red peppers, mixed with urd flour, are rubbed over 
the faces of the groom's father and his relatives. It 
causes a good deal of sneezing. A shrub bearing burs 
(mamri) is thrown over them and the burs stick to 
their clothes. The formal weeping on the part of 
the bride's female relatives follows ; after which one of 
the women hides the bride in her lap, covering her with a 
sheet (chadar). Another bit of horseplay follows. The 
bride's mother makes puris and other delicacies, draws 
figures of horses and asses upon them, and gives them to 
the groom's father to take home to the groom's female 
relatives. She addresses the man thus: " Our horses 
and asses are taking by stealth our food for their women." 
This causes a good deal of laughter. 

If the pair are of the proper age at the time of the 
6adi, the marriage is then consummated ; otherwise, the 
bride, upon her return, remains with her parents until she 
is thirteen or fourteen years of age. Occasionally, after 
the parents first come to take her back home, she is again 
taken to her husband's home for a few days, and then 


brought back again by her father. In this case, also, she 
will then remain at her own home until she reaches the 
age of puberty. When the parties have reached the proper 
age for marital relations, that is, when the girl is about 
fourteen and the boy about sixteen, the boy's father sends 
word that he will come on a certain day for the girl. The 
date for this event, which is called the gaund, is usually 
fixed by a Brahman not long after the wedding. The 
gauna must be in the first, second, fifth or seventh year 
after the wedding, but not in the third, fourth or sixth 
year. The day before the groom's party goes for the 
bride, the clansmen, or as many as wish to go, gather. 
The groom's father takes a chadar and a jacket for the 
bride, and two and a half seers of sugar and two and a half 
seers of rice for the bride's parents. They start out in the 
evening accompanied by dancers and music. When they 
arrive, the negi (on the bride's side) washes the feet of the 
groom and of his father and relatives. The gifts are then 
made over to the negi. Then coarse sugar and curds are 
served to five men. A feast follows, and liquor is drunk. 

The next morning a wave ceremony may be performed. 
If so, the bride's veil is tied to the groom's clothes. After- 
wards they are led to the conveyance in which they are to 
be taken to the husband's home. Before they start the 
bride's father may make other presents, such as clothes, 
jewellery and money. When they reach home, the negi's 
wife washes the bride's feet, and food is offered to her. 
At the door the bridegroom's sister demands a present, 
which must be given before they enter the house. The 
marriage is then consummated. After a day or two the 
bride may return to her mother's home. Before the gauna 
the groom has no right to enter the girl's room or to touch 
her bed. 

The rich may go again for the bride, following much 
the same ceremony as in the gauna. This is called the 

During the wedding ceremonies a strict account is kept 
of the gifts received from the various relatives, so that 
proper return may be made later when other marriages 
occur. Part of the wedding expenses are met by sub- 


scriptions, which must be paid back double to those who 
gave them, when weddings occur in the donors 1 homes. 

Analysis shows that there are three important divisions 
in the marriage. The first is the marhgni, which is to all 
intents and purposes binding. This is performed in in- 
fancy. The second is the Sadi, or marriage proper, 
which usually takes place in childhood. And the third 
is the gauna, or the consummation of the marriage, which 
takes place when the parties reach the age of puberty. 
Authorities differ as to the indispensable parts of the 
ceremony. But all agree that the phera is essential to the 
wedding. Some add the sindurdan, or the marking of the 
parting of the bride's hair with red-lead. Among other 
essentials are sometimes named the kanyadan, or giving of 
the girl in marriage ; the parhw puja ; the eating together 
of the bride and groom before relatives, and the ceremony 
in the kohbar, or retiring-room. The essentials according 
to the daiva ritual of the Hindus are the worship of the 
gods, the fire-sacrifice, the gift of the daughter, and the 

A variation of the adi ceremony is called the dold. 1 
This is a less respectable form of wedding used when the 
parents are poor. The chief point of difference from the 
adi is that the barat is not received by the bride's parents. 
A Brahman is consulted as to an auspicious day for the 
ceremony. Upon that day the groom's father, accompanied 
by some near relatives, goes for the bride. They tarry 
near her home for refreshments and arrive at the bride's 
house at sunset. More liquor is procured, and a dinner 
is given by the groom's party. In the morning, after 
eating some parched gram, the party returns home taking 
the bride with them. Some of her old female rela 
tives go with her. She is received by the boy's mother ; 
, the groom's younger sister worships her feet by pouring 
water over them, and then she is taken into the house. 

After a few days, the wedding preparations are begun. 
All the preliminaries for both bride and groom are per- 
formed here in the groom's home. The preparations are 

1 See account in Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western 
Provinces and Oudh, Vol. II. p. 181. 


as in the adi proper. The lagan for the bride is followed 
by two sacred earth ceremonies (one for each), and then 
two marriage sheds are built. Then for both the anoint- 
ing is performed, and for each a kohbar is prepared. 
The evening feast (bhaktawan) follows. 

Male relatives of the bride come for the wedding cere- 
monies. On the day of the wedding, the groom is prepared 
for the barat, which simply marches through the village 
and returns. Then the bride is prepared to receive the 
groom's party as if she were in her own home. The 
groom's mother performs the wave ceremony and goes 
through the play at the well. Then follow the regular 
wedding ceremonies, including the foot-worship, the bridal 
bath, the fire-sacrifice, and the phera. The ceremonies 
are concluded with a wedding feast. 

The next morning the services for the departure of 
the barat are carried out as in the regular &adi, but the 
barat simply marches around the village and returns to the 
groom's home. That evening they march around the 
village again, but before they start the bride's father 
performs a wave ceremony. The bride may go back home 
with her father. But she usually comes to her husband's 
home to stay. 

A woman may not be married by the regular ceremony 
a second time. The rule is in agreement with Manu. 1 
The marriage of a widow is therefore a formal acceptance 
of the woman by the man in the presence of witnesses, 
usually relatives. Such a union must be ratified by the 
panchayat. The groom may give a suitable dinner in 
honour of the event. The presents which the groom 
makes include articles which will remove the bride's signs 
of widowhood. Where the practice of the levirate 
enters in, the formal acceptance of the bride is called 
the karao. The marriage of widows is also called 
sagai, but this seems to be a more general term than 
karao. Other terms are applied to widow-marriage, 
but these are more or less descriptions of the formal 
acceptance of the bride, Among these terms are chddar 

VIII 226; IX 47. 


tfdlnd, chddar urhdnd, and dhaurdnd, and they refer to the 
covering of the bride with a chadar or sheet. Some- 
times a woman answers the questions about having 
been married a second time by saying, ' ' Panchdyat hm" 
or " Khdnd hud," or " Rasm rasdm hui" or " Daihd hud" 
which mean that the elders have agreed to the match, or 
that the feast or other formalities have been observed. 

One form of the ceremony for the marriage of a 
widow with a widower is as follows: The relatives of both 
parties consult a Brahman as to an auspicious time for the 
event. At the proper time the groom, with a few near 
relatives, goes to the bride's home, taking two and a-half 
seers of sugar, two and a-half seers of rice, one loin-cloth, 
and one chadar, as a gift, A feast is then given by the 
bride's parents. After the feast, the groom withdraws 
with the bride to a private room. In the morning the 
groom takes her to his home. A bit of silver, upon 
which a figure representing the groom's deceased wife is 
engraved, is brought from the jewellers. Dal puns are 
prepared and served on five leaf-plates. These plates are 
arranged in a circle, in the centre of which a fire is lighted. 
The image and a new loin-cloth are placed before the fire. 
Then one plate is taken by the bride and the others by 
four women. The pair place red-lead on each other's 
forehead in the hair-parting. The bride then puts on the 
loin-cloth, and the image is hung from her neck by a red, 
or a black, string (or thrown into a well). The image is 
called the saut sal. In the evening a few of her near 
relatives come to the groom's house and are given a 
special dinner. A short time after this wedding, the bride 
will be given ornaments besides those which she received 
before. This shows that the state of widowhood has been 

In a much less elaborate form of the ceremony the 
groom, with a few of his friends, takes such clothes and 
ornaments as he can afford, and a box of vermilion, and 
goes to the house of the bride at nightfall. There the 
usual formalities are gone through, and, in the dark, small 
hours of the night, he clothes the bride, applies the 
vermilion to her forehead, and takes her home. 


In another variation of the ceremony, the woman is 
dressed in new garments and presented by her husband 
with bracelets, a nose-ring and ear-rings, or some other 
emblems of wedded life. The man and woman are then 
seated together, and a white sheet is thrown over them 
(chadar dalna), in the presence of the brotherhood by an 
elder brother of the groom. Presents, or a rupee, are 
placed in the bride's hands. A feast follows. 

In case the widow is married to a bachelor, the 
essentials of the phera are performed in the groom's house. 
But the groom does not perform the phera with the bride. 
In her stead, a piece of cotton-plant is tied to the plow- 
beam in the pavilion. The various parts of the Sadi 
ceremony are performed for the groom, but not for the 
bride. She has already received these attentions at her 
previous marriage. It is this fact that accounts for the 
absence of the Sadi ceremonies in other widow-marriages. 
In the above ceremony we have an instance of mock- 
marriage, e.g., the groom is united with the cotton-plant. 
He afterwards receives the widow in marriage by the 
sagai rite as his wife. 



WHEN it is clear that a person is about to die, relatives 
ask him about the distribution of his property. Then, as 
the moment of dissolution approaches, he is placed upon 
the ground (usually). A batasa, or a perd (both, kinds 
of sweets), is dissolved in water, which is then given to the 
dying man to drink. Or, Ganges water, or water in 
which metal has been washed, is given. Occasionally, 
curds, or milk, are given. Those who are able, fee a 
Brahman to bring a cow, and the dying man is made to 
seize its tail and is thus helped over the river of death 
(saihkalp). If a person who has not passed middle life 
should die on a bed, it is believed that he would become 
an evil spirit. On the other hand, some fear to place the 
dying man on the ground, lest he should discover their 
intention and curse them. The body is laid with the feet 
to the south, the direction in which it is believed his 
spirit will travel. (In some places it is laid upon kdms 
grass or wheat-straw.) After death, arrangements are 
made for the funeral. The news is sent to the relatives 
and friends, and cloth, coloured thread, betel leaves, sandal- 
wood, ghi, and bamboos are brought from the bazaar. 
Then a stretcher (tikhthi, arthi) is made of the bamboos. 
The body is rubbed with gram flour, and then washed 
with cold water by the relatives or those in charge of the 
ceremony. The body is set up against the wall on a plank, 
and water, as it is poured over the body, collects in a hole 
which has been dug under the plank. If the deceased be 
a man, men perform this office ; if a woman, women. 



In some places the water for the washing is drawn from a 
well, with the left hand, and brought in an earthen vessel. 
Metal is placed in the mouth. If the corpse be that of a 
woman, it is anointed with ghi. Then scents are 
sprinkled over the body and it is covered with a rough 
sort of winding-sheet made from cloth brought from the 
bazaar. Each relative who is able to do so brings a wind- 
ing-sheet, and all the sheets are wrapped around the body. 
At the place of cremation (or of burial) all but one of 
these winding-sheets are taken off. One is taken by the 
nearest relative, who lights the fire, and the rest given to 
faqirs and to the Dom, or sweeper, who furnishes the 
fire. In some places all these sheets are taken by the 
menial who gives the fire. A tailor is now employed to 
make the clothes. These garments are of white for a 
man, of red for a woman. Over the body now, as it is 
laid on the bier, a red or a white cloth is thrown. The 
red cloth is used for a woman. In the Central Provinces 
the bier is painted white for a man, red for a woman. 
At the four corners of the bier flags are often fastened. In 
other places seven flags are used, one at the head and 
three on each side of the body, or seven pan leaves 
marked with red-lead are used. Flags are often of red 
cloth, or of gilt, according as the body is that of a woman 
or a man. In the case of children there may be no flags. 
The knife with which the string was cut in making the 
bier is carried with the body. If the frame is tied 
together with rope made of karhs grass, the rope is made 
by rolling it with the left hand uppermost and by drawing 
the hand towards the body. 

If a married man die, his widow removes the ornaments 
from her wrists and ankles. They are broken if of glass, 
but if of metal they are kept. Her hair is let down, and 
is thereafter unkempt. If the widow be a girl who has 
never lived with her husband, she will simply lay aside her 
jewels for a time. 

If the person die late in the afternoon, or at night, so 
that it will be impossible to carry out the funeral cere- 
monies until the next day, the great-toes of the body are 
tied together, so that the body may not increase in length 


unduly. Sometimes the corpse is measured and a reed of 
the exact length placed beside the body. Unless these 
precautions are taken, the prince of demons (Baitdl, Vetdl) 
may get possession of the body and cause it to swell. 
Others say that the body must be watched lest an evil 
spirit (bhut) take possession of it and cause it to rise up, 
and that the watcher must not be left alone lest he be 
attacked. They say that such things actually happened 
in the olden times. A lamp is kept burning and in cold 
weather a fire also. There is great fear of the body at 
night. Cases have been reported in which the dead man, 
when being carried to the grave, or to the burning-place, 
at night, has seized one of the bearers by the neck. 

The relatives and friends join in mourning. Some burn 
the palm of the right hand with a hot copper coin. Others 
do this after they have reached the place of burial 
or of cremation. Two, in some places four, balls of flour 
(barley, wheat, or urd), or of rice cooked in milk, are 
made, two of which contain copper coins. Of the two 
containing coins, one is placed on the right, the other on 
the left of the body. 

If the person die during the pdnchak (the first five 
days of the new moon, or the first five days of the "dark" 
moon), four pindds are made. These are placed on the 
bier, two on each side of the body. They represent the 
members of the family. With the body they make up the 
number five, indicating the five days, and thus removing, 
as they believe, the necessity of another death in the 
family during the year. 

When the funeral procession is ready to start, the 
husband (or wife) of the deceased marks the forehead of 
the dead seven times with sindur. The husband makes 
the marks with his fingers. The widow marks the fore- 
head, using the finger of the dead husband. This indicates 
the dissolution of the marriage relation, and corresponds 
to the seven rounds of the phera. The bier is first lifted 
by the relatives, both men and women, and afterwards 
carried by relatives and friends. The body is borne feet 
foremost, so that the ghost of the dead person may not be 
able to find the way back. With the procession fire from 


the house is carried in an earthen pot or on a piece of 
dried cow-dung. This is for protection from evil spirits 
and also to light their huqqas (pipes). As they go they 
throw barley, shells (kauri), and tdlmakhdna 1 seeds in front of 
the body. Sometimes the women follow the bier. In case 
there is no man to serve as chief mourner, the widow goes 
to the place where the body is disposed of. The other 
women go but a little way and then return home. Each 
one, as she drops out of the procession, puts a bit of earth 
on the bier. Any other person leaving the procession 
does likewise. As they go they cry out, " Ram, Ram, sat 
hai, sat bolo gat hai " ( ft God is real (true) ; to speak the 
truth is salvation "). And they express their helplessness 
-in such words as : " Tu hi hai, taine paida kiyji, taine mar 
diyd" ("Thou art God; thou hast created and thou 
hast destroyed ") The procession is sometimes accom- 
panied by a low-caste man beating a dhol. 

After the body has been taken from the house all the 
water-vessels are emptied, and such earthen utensils as 
the deceased had touched just before the time of death 
are broken. In some places water is sprinkled over the 
the bed to make it cool for the spirit of the dead. The 
dust of the room and the clothes of the dead are gathered 
up, carried by a relative and thrown outside the village. 
This applies to cases of infectious diseases only ; in other 
cases clothes are given to the poor or used by relatives. 
In some places the spot where the body was prepared for 
burial is burned over with fire, or the place is liped. A 
fire is kept burning in the home for some time, usually 
three days. 

On the way to the place of burning, or burial, the body 
is placed upon the ground five or seven times (mansil 
dend). At the first place where they stop barley grains, 
shells, and talmakhana seeds are left. In case the two pindas 
were placed on the bier, one, or both, are left there. 
It is from this point that the women usually return. 

Chamars both bury and burn their dead, and there 
seems to be no fixed rule that determines the matter. 

1 Seed of the water-lily, considered as strength-giving. 


Sometimes the poor, instead of burning the body, merely 
scorch it on the face and then cast it into some stream. 
The cost of wood is too great to admit of the poor 
burning their dead. 

The usual custom seems to be to burn the body ; and 
where there is no river near by, the ashes are collected, 
together with small pieces of bone, placed in a ghard 
(an earthen pot), carried to some stream and cast into its 

If the body is to be burned near a stream, it is placed 
upon the bank as soon as the procession arrives. It is 
then carried into the stream, sideways, and immersed. 
The bier is then placed on the bank, and the body is taken 
off and laid on the pyre, the feet towards the south or 
towards the stream. Wood is placed upon the corpse. 
Sometimes ghi is sprinkled over the body. In some 
places, a copper coin is placed in the right hand, and a live 
coal is placed upon the coin. Fire is brought from a Dom, 
or sweeper. The chief mourner takes the fire and 
walks round the body seven (or five) times, and at each 
round sets fire to the pyre at the head. If the head does 
not burst in the burning, it is broken with a bamboo from 
the bier. When the body is fully burned, the ashes and 
pieces of bone are washed into the stream. 

If the cremation has taken place near a river, all 
remain to the end of the ceremonies. If the body is 
burned at a distance from a stream, no one is left to wash 
the ashes, but the mourners come the next day and collect 
the ashes and bones in a ghara and take them home. The 
earthen vessel is set aside, or buried, or hung on a tree, 
until someone takes it to the river Ganges. If the stream 
near which the cremation takes place is not the Ganges 
or one of its branches, or if the body was burned outside 
the village, by the village tank, the ashes are collected 
in an earthen vessel and afterwards taken to the 

In the Punjab, bones and ashes are watched to protect 
them from evil influences. 

When the cremation is completed and the- remains 
have been cast into the river, some member of the party 


says: " On this side and that side of the Ganges the son 
of So-and-so, the grandson of So-and-so, performs the 
pinda ceremony for his dead father ; Mother Ganges 
accepts the service." The relatives then bathe. The 
knife which was put upon the bier is then set up in the 
stream and all present pour water over it, thus worship- 
ping the Ganges and the fathers (pitris). 

Members of the iv Nar,yan sect bury their dead. 
While the preparations for the procession are in progress 
the Santvirdsa (Scriptures) are set up on an improvised 
platform covered with a white cloth. Before this, those 
present worship and then join in singing. Musical 
instruments are used. During the funeral procession 
chosen men (mahants), going before the body, read 
from the Santvirasa. As they proceed they sing. Some 
of the songs are songs of rejoicing. If anyone 
leaves the procession, he puts a lamp of earth on 
the bier. 

At the grave the bier is placed upon the ground, then 
seven wicks are made of cloth, dipped in ghi, lighted, 
and waved around the head of the body seven times ; and 
at each turn, the lips are scorched with the flames. 
Then a laddu (a sweetmeat) is placed in the mouth. 
Camphor, or incense, or sandal-wood, is burned in the 
grave, in an earthen pot, before the body is let down. 
The corpse is taken from the bier and laid in the grave so 
that the feet are in a southerly direction. After the body 
has been lowered, earth is thrown into the grave. First 
the reader (mahant) casts in a handful of earth ; then the 
chief mourner casts in five handfuls ; after him all the 
others cast in earth. Then the grave is filled up. On 
the grave the flowers and the seven flags from the bier are 
placed. The grave is dug in the usual way and then a 
chamber is hollowed out on the side large enough to 
receive the body. After the body is laid in this side- 
chamber it is walled up before the grave is filled. In this 
way the earth does not fall directly on the body. Some 
members of the sect burn their dead, and still others cast 
the body into a sacred stream. Children and persons not 
initiated are buried without any ceremony. If the wife 


of an initiate die, her relatives may claim the body and 
burn it. 1 

Dadu Panthis 2 burn their dead at dawn ; but the more 
religious not infrequently request that their bodies, after 
death, be thrown into some field or some wilderness, to be 
devoured by the beasts or birds of prey, as they say that in 
a funeral pyre insect life is apt to be destroyed. 

The funeral ceremonies of the Kablr Panthis are 
described as follows 3 : " Upon the death of a member of 
the Panth two cocoanuts are immediately purchased. 
One of these is carried by the barber in the funeral 
procession and placed by the side of the dead body 
immediately before cremation or burial ; the other is kept 
in the house and reserved as an offering at the funeral 
chauka to be held at some subsequent date. 

"The arrangements in connection with a funeral 
(chauka) differ from those of an ordinary chauka in that 
the awning over the prepared ground is of red instead of 
white material ; a piece of white cloth is placed over the 
chauka to represent the dead man's body, and the number 
of betel-leaves is reduced to 124, the leaf removed represent- 
ing the dead man's portion. 

" At the commencement of the service the mahant 
prays silently on behalf of the deceased, that he may be 
preserved from all dangers on his journey. Upon the 
conclusion of this prayer five funeral bhajans are sung, 
after which all present do bandagi to the guru three 
times and to the piece of white cloth that represents the 
body of the deceased. 

" The cocoanut which has been specially reserved for 
this service is next washed by the mahant and made over to 
some relative of the deceased, or, should there be no relative 
belonging to the Panth, to some member attached to the 
same guru as the deceased. This man, after applying the 
cocoanut to his forehead, shoulders, etc., returns it with 
an offering to the mahant, who breaks it upon a stone upon 

1 See Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces 
andOudh, Vol. II. p. 188. 

1 The Religious Sects of the Hindus (C.L.S.)i P- 54. 
8 Westcott, Kabir and the Kabir Panth, pp. 133, 134. 


which camphor is burning. The rest of the service is 
conducted in the manner already described. The number 
of cocoanuts offered varies from one to nine, according to 
the means of the friends and relatives. Each cocoanut 
involves a separate offering to the mahant. The flesh of 
the cocoanut or cocoanuts is made up, with flour, etc., into 
small cakes, which are sent round to the houses of Kabir 
Panthis, by the hands of Bairagls." 

Satnamis burn their dead, laying the body with the 
face downward and spreading clothes in the grave, above 
and below the body, to keep it warm and comfortable. 
Mourning is concluded on the third day, when the relatives 
have their heads shaved (but not the upper lip). 

Other sects, e.g. the Rai Dasis, the Nanak Panthis, 
and some other Ramats, bury their dead, unless the request 
has been made during life that the body be burned or 
exposed. 1 Sometimes members of sects following Rama- 
nanda read from the Ramayana, at the burning ghat, to 
help the deceased on his journey in the spirit world. 

When a person dies of smallpox, plague or cholera, 
the body is disposed of as soon as possible. Sometimes it is 
buried. Usually the body is not burned, but cast into a 
stream without any ceremony. But, on the day of the 
death-feast, an image (about twelve inches long) of the 
man is made of flour. Over this the ceremonies of burial 
or cremation are performed. 

If a person die away from home, the body is burned or 
buried immediately. The relatives, when they learn of 
the decease, make an image of the dead person and per- 
form the funeral rites over that. 

At the place where the body has been disposed of, after 
the knife is worshipped, a small fire is lighted and ghi and 
parched rice are offered in it. They then say, " In what- 
ever state you are, leave us alone." This expresses the 
feelings of the people and the aims of the ceremonies, and 
especially of the customs about to be described. Another 
formula is used, whenever food is offered to the departed : 

* Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces 
and Oudh, Vol. II. p. 183. 


" Be kind to us all ; make us prosper who are left behind. " 
The desire is to prevent the return of the spirit to its 
former home. They take precautions, however, so that, 
should it return, it may be propitiated and do no harm. 

When the funeral ceremonies have been completed, the 
company bathe and start home. As they leave the place 
they throw earth backwards with their left hands. They 
do not look back. On the way back one or two cakes of 
gur and parched rice are distributed. Some plant a few 
stalks of grass near a tank as an abode for the spirit, which 
wanders about until the death ceremonies are completed. 
Water is poured here for ten days. 1 

Before returning the party also partakes of sweets. Up 
to the ninth or tenth day, the chief mourner carries a lota 
and a knife; smokes by himself; cooks by himself, not 
using a tawa, and does not eat salt. He has no intercourse 
with his wife, and sleeps on the ground. A piece of the 
winding-sheet is worn by the chief mourner, about the 
forehead or neck, during the days of mourning. When a 
very old man dies his sons each wear a piece of the winding- 
sheet for a long time. 

In many ca$es no precautions are taken to bar the 
ghost, unless a number of the members of the family have 
died in close succession. In such cases sarsom-seeds are 
dropped on the way as the funeral procession goes to the 
burial-place or the burning-gounds. 

While the burial, or cremation, ceremonies are in pro- 
gress, the women who have gone back home prepare for 
the return of the procession. They bathe, and make 
sherbet to refresh the party upon its return. In the 
larger towns the men stop at the liquor-shops on the way 

At the door of the courtyard each person, upon his 
return, touches water, sometimes in a broken earthen 
vessel, fire, a sil, and iron (chimtd, fire-tongs) and nim- 
leaves with the great-toe of his right foot, and takes up a 
nim-leaf and bites it into two pieces with his teeth. This 

1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. II. p. 184. 


last act signifies that the relations with the dead are dis- 
solved. They then enter the courtyard (or house), where 
they partake of sherbet, or sparingly of gur. Then the 
relatives depart. If a young person die, no food is eaten 
on the day of the burial (or cremation). If an old person 
die, food is prepared by relatives and brought in. Of this 
food each offers a small portion of the first roti in the fire 
on the spot where the body lay. The remainder of this 
cake is thrown out for the dogs. 

The next morning rice and dal with milk are prepared 
for food in a new earthen pot. Some of this is put upon 
a leaf-platter and placed outside for the dead, and water is 
poured out nearby five times. This is for the spirit of the 
dead. After that the family partake of the food, but not 
of the rice-water. The chief mourner eats first. He may 
eat salt in this meal. A variation of the practice is that 
the chief mourner places outside of the house of the 
deceased an earthen pot full of milk and rice-gruel, with a 
pitcher of water, for the departed spirit. 

On this day kus-grass is planted where the chief 
mourner will bathe during the days of mourning, and he 
pours water on this with his hands each day for ten days. 
He eats once a day. 

There is some variation in practice concerning the 
feasts and ceremonies. In some places certain matters 
are attended to on the third, while with others these are 
left until the tenth day. Again, the principal feast is some- 
times held on the third instead of the tenth day. During 
the first three days after the funeral those who carried the 
body sleep on the ground. On the third day (tri rdtri, 
tija), in some places on the tenth day, oblations and cakes 
of barley flour are offered to the departed soul. A mesh- 
bag is hung up in the door, and in this a dish of water and 
a little food, when ready, is placed for the spirit. The 
relatives cook rice and urd for this tija feast, and it is eaten 
in the house where the dead man used to live. Four 
cakes from the meal are set out upon the roof on plates of 
dhak-leaves. In some places a trench is dug on the right 
side of the door, and seven pots of different kinds of food 
are buried in it, and milk, mixed with Ganges water, is 


taken to the place of cremation and sprinkled about. On 
the fire that was lighted outside the house, where the 
body was placed, a small dish of rice is cooked. Portions 
of rice are placed on leaves (of pipal or of banyan) and 
with them each man who helped to carry the body has 
his shoulder touched. These leaves, the rice remaining, 
and the vessel in which it was washed, are then burned on 
the spot. Sometimes the men who carried the bier have 
cross-marks made on their shoulders with sarsom oil. In 
some places these four men wave a little of the rice over their 
shoulder with their left hands. In this feast the four 
persons (kandhauri) who were the first to carry the dead 
(they are relatives) are especially feasted; and after this 
they are absolved from contamination and may resume 
their beds. On this night, ashes are sprinkled in the door- 
way (outside and inside). Often the ashes are covered with 
a basket slightly raised from the ground on one side with a 
stick. In the morning search is made for the footprint of 
some creature, for this footprint in the ashes will indicate 
the nature of the spirit's new body. 

Chamars believe that the dead return now and then, 
and provision is made for the visits of spirits. On the third 
day, especially, does the spirit return ; hence hearth-ashes 
arc scattered at the door at this time. 

For ten days after death, food for the refreshment of 
the spirit is placed outside the door, on the roof, or under 
the eaves of the house, and some is left on the way to the 
cremation-grounds and at the burning-ghat or at cross- 
roads. A thick loaf of bread is sometimes given to a cow. 
The earthen pots of the house are broken that the spirit 
may have water-vessels. Some plant a few stalks of grass 
near a tank as an abode for the spirit, which wanders 
about until the funeral rites are completed. On these 
blades water is poured daily for ten (or thirteen) days. 

When these ceremonies are performed on the third day, 
they are repeated on the tenth day, and the clansmen are 
fed. A portion of the food is placed on the road where 
the first cake (pinda) was left on the day of the funeral. 

On the tenth day the chief mourner, or the nearest 
male relative, is shaved. Other near relatives have their 


hair trimmed. The chief mourner changes his old clothes 
for new ones, and gives the cast-off ones to the barber. A 
small platform is made on the bank of a tank or a stream 
and covered with sacred grass. On this balls (pinda) 
of arwah rice, cooked in a new pot, are offered by the 
chief mourner, one ball being offered for each person 
of the family who has died ; that is, balls are offered 
for brothers, parents, grandparents, and great-grand- 
parents. Then, taking up the balls, he touches his 
right shoulder then his left shoulder with them (the reverse 
order is followed if the chief mourner be a woman), and 
places them on the ground at some distance from the 
spot, or casts them into a stream. The rice for the pinda 
is cooked near a stream or tank. No chulha is used. 
All now return to the house and partake of the feast 
already prepared. This is made of arwah rice and dal 
cooked in a new vessel. Part of this is set out for the 
dead. Then each relative receives a little of this food. 
The meal is served on leaf-plates. The chief mourner 
receives the first helping ; and, after food has been placed 
before all those present, a little from each leaf-plate is 
taken, placed upon a leaf-platter and set outside, by the 
chief mourner, for the deceased. When the chief mourner 
returns, he eats five small portions of the food and then 
gets up and washes his hands, as though he had finished 
the meal. He then greets the company, saying, " Lakshml 
Ndrdyan, pancho!" Then all begin to eat. He sits 
down and joins with them. Liquor is drunk. These 
ceremonies are a purificatory rite. In case the chief 
mourner be a woman, these rites are performed on the 
ninth day. 

On the evening of the tenth day another feast is pre- 
pared. After the meal is spread, before anyone eats, a 
portion from each plate is placed in a leaf-platter, taken 
outside and left for the deceased. Then the chief 
mourner begins to eat. After taking five morsels he 
washes his hands and greets the company as he did in the 
morning. Then all join in the feast. Liquor is provided, 
and some is drunk before the meal. If the deceased was 
an old person, singing and dancing by boys of the caste 


is provided. These professional dancers are paid for 
their services. This feast lasts late into the night. The 
women and children eat after the men have finished. At 
the close of the meal a basket is taken and into it 
are put the new earthen pot used in cooking the meal on 
the morning of the first day, that used in preparing the 
meal on the morning of the tenth day (or ninth), and, if 
the deceased was a woman, a small pot containing oil, 
and, if she was in the habit of smoking, a mud huqqa 
with a chilam, in which is tobacco and fire (ready to be 
smoked), and a broom made of a special kind of grass. If 
the deceased was a man, the broom is not used, but a 
cover is placed over one of the vessels so as to make up 
five articles in the basket. If the deceased was not a 
smoker, a small vessel takes the place of the huqqa. The 
articles in the basket must number at least five. Five 
men join in the procession ; one, the sister's husband, or 
sister's husband's father, carrying the basket, and followed 
by one carrying fire, one carrying fire-tongs, and one 
carrying a knife. These articles are provided for the use 
of the spirit of the deceased. The last man carries 
nothing. The basket is deposited outside, and the men, 
bringing with them the tongs and the knife, return. 
Then a little food is given to each of the five from one 

After this feast, when the guests have left and the 
people of the house have gone into another room, a widow 
of the family takes two new earthen plates, on one of 
which she places urd ki dal and on the other chana, or 
some other kind of dal. Then she sifts ashes from the 
hearth-fire over a small space in the room and covers them 
with the sieve. The two plates are placed near the ashes. 
She sleeps in the room. In the morning the ashes are 
examined for footprints. If no mark is found, the con- 
clusion is drawn that, for the deceased, the round of 
transmigration is finished, or that the spirit has been 
11 laid." If someone in the family falls ill soon afterwards, 
a bhagat is called, who may report that the ghost has 
become a wandering evil-spirit. The woman who slept 
in the house is given a dhoti or a rupee as a reward. 


Some make a mark on the body of the deceased with ghi, 
oil or soot ; and when a child is born in the family, its 
body is examined, and if a corresponding mark is dis- 
covered, it would indicate that the spirit had taken its new 
birth in the family. Some make a test with ashes at the 
annual funeral-feast and at Dewali-timd, to discover 
whether the dead has paid his former home a visit. 

In some parts of the country, on the eleventh day, eft 
on the night of the tenth, the utensils and private property 
of the deceased are made over to his sister's husband ; but 
in other places he receives a lota, a brass tray, or a rupee. 
The feast of the tenth day, which is the principal death- 
feast, is called Dasa Pitar and Visarjan. 

A tribal feast is sometimes given on the twelfth, 
thirteenth or sixteenth day after the funeral. The rela- 
tives come to offer consolation, and they must receive 
refreshments. There are places where the principal feast 
is on the thirteenth day. It is cooked on a special place 
plastered with dung from a cow that has not calved. The 
food consists of rice and shakki. Then sindur and food 
are offered to Bhumid and other godlings. Up to the 
time of this feast the chief mourner is under certain tabus; 
for he has worn only scant clothes, and a handkerchief on 
his head, and has carried a lota with him, has not worked, 
has not slept in bed, and has made offerings of food for 
the dead. The house is liped, and rice cooked in milk is 
served. Offerings are made to godlings and to the dead 
man. Portions of the food are provided for Brahmans and 
neighbours and served on small dishes of leaves. Likewise 
food is set out on the roof for the crows. A fire-sacrifice 
is made, with offerings of ghi and halwa, to the dead. 
After the offering the feast is spread, and drinking is in- 
dulged in. The dinner takes place in the night, and then 
the guests depart. 

Food is given to the sweeper and to the dhobi and to 
other menials after the feasts. 

In some places, after a month and a half, that is after 
three half-moons, a feast is held in the name of the dead. 
No special kind of food is prescribed. The relatives 
assemble at night. The offerings for the dead are made 


as on the other feast-days. When the meal is served, a 
little food is taken from each plate and carried out on a 
leaf-platter by the chief mourner and left for the dead. 
The chief mourner eats five morsels and performs his 
ablution as at other death-feasts, and then they all join in 
the meal. There is drinking also. In the first half of the 
month of Kdtik (Pitar-pakh,Pitar-paksh) the bones of the 
dead (phul), if burned at some other place, are carried to 
the Ganges (or a tributary stream). The chief mourner 
who brings them bathes, and then, holding sacred grass in 
his hands, pours water into the stream in the name of the 
dead, five times for each ancestral spirit (for three genera- 
tions back) and for his deceased brothers. If the ceremony 
is performed with water from a well, he pours out water 
but once for each spirit. The offering of water is made 
each day of the first half of this month. A space in 
front of the door of the house is plastered with cow- 
dung and on this flowers are offered and flour is sprinkled. 
This is done for fourteen days. A feast for the dead is 
given, on the ninth for a woman, and on the fourteenth for 
a man, and again on the fourteenth for a woman. The last 
day's ceremony is for all the dead. After this no feast will 
be given for her on the ninth. At this time the feasts are 
held in each house, but anyone may have guests. On the 
eleventh day of Katik sixteen or seventeen balls of barley- 
flour are made. One of them is taken out and set aside 
for the Dom. Then, upon a platform made of clay and 
plastered with cow-dung, and over which sacred grass and 
leaves have been spread, a fire is placed. In the fire ghi 
and gur are offered. Then, in the name of each deceased 
ancestor, a ball is placed on the grass. If the balls are 
insufficient in number, the last is offered for all whose 
names have not been called. If there are too many balls, 
those left over are given to the ancestors collectively. 
After all the balls have been offered they are lifted up and 
raised to the right shoulder and then to the left, and then 
cast into the stream (or the tank if the ceremony is held 
there). On the last day the ceremony is performed in the 
same way. The chief mourner, or the one who performs 
these offices, is shaved. Some say that, until the Pitar- 


paksh is over, no wedding can be performed in the family. 
Others say that under a year no wedding can take place. 
Some hold that after the Pitar-paksh the gauna may be 

On the anniversary (6am) of the death twelve pindas 
are offered, and the family, if they can afford it, give a 
dinner, and offerings are made to the dead as at other 
feasts. This may be repeated year by year. 

The son, and probably the grandson, will keep up the 
offerings to the deceased. Brahmans are sometimes em- 
ployed to make the offerings to the dead, especially those 
of the Pitar-paksh. In any case they receive gifts. 

References have been made to means used to help the 
spirit of the deceased in its progress towards a peaceful 
reincarnation, and notices have been taken of acts which 
provide protection for those who are responsible for the 
funeral. Other references to means used to "bar" and 
to " lay " the spirit of the dead will be found in the next 

In connection with the preceding ritual mention has 
been made of ancestor-worship. The whole of spirit- 
worship, both of the sainted and of the malevolent dead, 
so far as it deals with the ghosts of deceased relatives, may 
be considered as a form of ancestor-worship. The sainted 
dead are household guardians. Deified persons, like 
Nona Chamari, are considered as the ancestors of tribes or 
of sub-castes. A very large share of the attention given to 
the spirits of the dead is related to demonology and to 
magic in general; and this phase of the subject will find 
ample illustration in the next chapter. 

That which more strictly may be called ancestor- 
worship occurs in the domestic ritual. When a son is 
born, and sometimes at the birth of a daughter, spirit is 
taken into the hand and waved about, and as drops of the 
liquor fall upon the ground the names of ancestors are 
called. At marriages some offerings are made to the 
spirits of the dead. But it is in the funeral rites that the 
greatest emphasis -is laid upon the worship of the fathers. 
The effort made to supply the needs of the deceased are 
evident in the offerings of food, water, and utensils, 


During certain festivals such as Dewali, and in the 
ceremonies of the Pitar-paksh, preparations are made for 
the return of ancestral spirits ; for spirits continue to be 
interested in the affairs of the living. There is a social 
element in the funeral ceremonies, in the annual feasts 
for the dead, and in some of the Dewali ceremonies. 
There are also elements of fear in the intercourse 
with the dead. Freed from the limitations of the 
body, spirits move in a wider sphere and exercise 
greater powers. They can either harm or help, and one 
is never sure just which they will do. Some who have 
been elevated to sainthood are supposed to afford protec- 
tion against certain demons and godlings. 

In the north-west of these Provinces and in the Punjab 
ancestral shrines are found in the fields. The small ones 
are for ancestors and the larger ones for clans. Some of 
these are places of pilgrimage. Here and there the Satl 
is taking the place of these shrines. Occasionally images 
of the Sati and her husband are found. Her sacrifice 
has secured for her deification, so she is able to protect her 
worshippers and grant them their desires. Therefore wo- 
men resort to the Sati, asking for children and other boons, 
and at marriages offerings of milk, food, fruit, and flowers 
are made to her. Neglect of the Sati may result in 
barrenness, or in disaster. In the east an earthen pot 
(karwd) with seven holes in it is offered. Other offerings 
consist of lights and food. Some put a lump of clay in 
the cooking-room to represent the ancestors, and an image 
of a ghost which makes trouble is set up in the house. 

Regular worship of ancestors, conducted by the oldest 
son living, is performed by the offering of a goat. Some- 
times this is performed in the ancestral shrine. And 
oblations and offerings are made on liped spots facing the 
south and in dreary and solitary places and on the banks 
of rivers. Daily oblations of water are poured out ; grains 
of sesame and barley are used. 

The house-worship is very simple. There seems to be 
no practice of bringing home the nuptial fire, or of keep- 
ing a sacred fire in the house. In some places a house 
godling is supposed to occupy a special mound on the 



floor, or in the courtyard, or a place in the wall, or in the 
thatch, or on the grain-bin. Here, in the godling's 
station, on the day of the Dasehra festival, seven 
wheaten cakes and some halwa are offered, and water, or 
water mixed with ground cloves and cardamoms, is poured 
out as an oblation. Sometimes the offering consists of 
a young pig and some spirits. Sitala often has a special 
place in the house. There is an element of house worship 
in some of the great festivals, such as the Ndgpanchaml 
and the Dewali. 

In house-building, a Brahman is first consulted as to 
when the digging for the foundation should be begun ; in 
the name of which man of the family the digging should 
be begun ; where the door is to be set ; and whether an 
evil spirit inhabits the spot. Then the Brahman indicates 
the direction in which the man who begins the digging 
should face. 

If, in the digging for the foundations, human bones, 
or a considerable amount of charcoal, should be dug up, 
the site would be considered inauspicious. 

When the laying of the foundations begins, sweets are 
distributed. Shells and pice are buried in the foundations. 
If, during the process of building, the walls repeatedly fall, 
a Brahman is consulted, because the trouble is attributed 
to evil influences. He announces the necessary offerings 
to be made to satisfy the spirit responsible for the trouble. 
Then follows the sacrifice of a cock, or a pig, or a goat, 
or a buffalo. Sometimes a human being is named by the 
Brahman. In that case, a person is sent up on the walls, 
on some pretext or other, and an " accident M is brought 
about, and his body is left in the foundation. This result 
is accomplished by stealth. This very rare practice is a 
relic of the older custom of human-sacrifice in connection 
with house-building. There are many superstitions about 
this practice in connection with large enterprises, both 
Government and private. This form of superstition is 
still common. 

During the time the building is in process of erection, 
a lamp is kept burning at night, and droppings of pigs, or 
other filth is left around, lest spirits take possession of 


the building. An old shoe is tied to a bamboo, which is 
set up to ward off the evil eye during the process of 
erection. Sometimes an iron pot or an earthen pot painted 
black is set up to ward off the evil eye. When the door- 
casing is put in, a member of the family drives a nail into 
the door and on this hangs a mud bowl with a small neck 
(kulhiya). An iron ring is attached to this. 

If the house have a courtyard, the door in the wall 
should not face the south, as this is the direction of the 
abode of the god of the dead. In general, houses should 
not face the south, nor should the fireplace. Likewise 
a man should not set his bed so that he must sleep with 
his feet to the south, unless he is about to die. If the 
house is set on the north side of the street, the door is 
often built into a little inset at an angle to the compass, 
or to face in the direction east or west. Another taboo 
relates to the shape of the courtyard. It is always nearly 
or quite square, the feeling being that a long narrow 
court in their houses is unlucky. A narrow courtyard 
resembles the Ganges, and suggests the possibility of 
the whole house or courtyard being carried away as 
with a flood. Or, a narrow courtyard resembles a 

When the house is finished, a Brahman is asked to 
fix the date and hour when the family may take possession. 
If the date is some days off and the house is urgently 
needed, another entrance is made. This is done with the 
consent of the Brahman. The dedicatory ceremonies are 
performed on the day when they enter the house. The 
chief godling of the village is worshipped. Ganesh is not 
worshipped. Then the family enter the house. Some- 
times the wife's chadar is tied to the husband's clothes. 
Then, as the Brahman suggests, they sacrifice a cock, or 
a goat, or a pig, or a buffalo to their special goddess. 
This is done in the courtyard, or in front of the door. 
The blood is covered with earth. The flesh is served in 
the feast connected with the ceremonies. A fire-sacrifice 
is performed before or after the sacrifice, as the particular 
godling prefers, and in the house or outside as the Brahman 
may suggest* 


Chamars have their part in the festivals of the land, 
and no special notice need be taken of these occasions as 
such. But there are domestic aspects of great festivals 
which may be noted. 

The Holi is a spring festival, in which the firstfruits of 
the spring-harvest are offered. Characteristics of the 
celebration are the doll-swinging and the scattering of red 
powder, red liquid and mud. The Holi fire is lighted at 
night, or in the small hours of the morning. Fire from 
this bonfire is taken into the house for the women. From 
this a fire is made, upon which small cakes are cooked, 
of which each member of the house partakes. Sometimes 
a stalk of the cotton-plant is set up in the house-fire, and, 
when it burns and falls, the folks determine whether good 
or bad luck will follow the household during the year. If 
the stalk fall towards the east or towards the west, it is 
taken as a sign of good luck; if it fall towards the north 
or south, misfortune will be looked for. In the Holi fire 
handfuls of grain, in the stalk, are parched, and this is 
laid up in the house, and parched grain is put away in 
the roof, or in the grain-bin. The day on which the fire 
is lighted is given up to feasting, and it is a bad omen if 
one does not have a hearty meal. The Holi is, for the 
Chamar, a time when he is utterly abandoned to debauch- 
ery. On the night when the bonfire is lighted he gives 
himself up to drunkenness, excess, and obscenity. By the 
time that the /ire is lit, he is completely under the influ- 
ence of liquor. As he dances around the fire he breaks 
out anew into drunken and lewd revelry. The women 
sit in the shadows near their homes, and listen to the 
singing and to the utterly filthy jests and songs of the 
men. The debauch connected with the Holi is prolonged 
for several days. Then the women take sticks and go 
about the village, or town, demanding gifts of coarse sugar 
from all sorts of people. Their conduct is very unseemly. 
The Chamar seems to yield to utterly degrading elements 
in this new year's festival. 

Another festival that may be studied in its domestic 
aspects is the Nagpanchami. This is held in the middle 
of the rainy season, in honour of snakes* The women 


plaster the house, or at least the walls on each side of the 
door, with clay or cow-dung. Then they bathe. After- 
wards, at the threshold of the front-door, they make 
images of snakes out of cow-dung, and draw on the walls 
on both sides of the door, with lime or with cow-dung, 
lines to represent snakes. Sometimes a wisp of grain, 
tied in the form of a snake, is dipped in a fermented 
mixture made of wheat, grain and pulse steeped in 
water; and this, together with money and sweets, is 
offered to the serpents. Saucers of milk are set outside 
the house as offerings to snakes, and the worshippers joiri 
their hands in the attitude of adoration. Milk and dried 
rice are poured into the family snake-hole. Songs are 
sung in honour of the serpents. A line is then drawn 
around the house this is a magic circle across which a 
snake will not pass. A fire is lighted and ghi is offered in 
it. A feast with carousing follows. It is a day of hilarity, 
and cattle get a holiday, special food, and an extra allow- 
ance of salt. After the day's activities the images are 
thrown away. 

One more festival, the Dewali, may be mentioned 
because of its domestic aspects. At this time the houses 
are cleansed and freshly plastered with cow-dung or clay ; 
old lamps are thrown out and new ones are brought in. 
This is the time when the ancestral spirits visit their old 
homes. The family light lamps and sit up all night to 
receive the family ghosts. In the morning the wife takes 
all the sweepings and old clothes of the house in a dust- 
pan and throws them out on the dunghill, saying, " May 
thriftlessness and poverty be far from us." 

Meanwhile the Gobardhan Dewali is performed by the 
women. It is made in honour of Krishna, and consists of 
a prostrate figure to represent him, made of cow-dung, 
surrounded by little mounds of cow-dung representing 
mountains. Stalks of grains tipped with bits of cotton 
are set up in the mounds to represent trees. On the 
" mountains " tiny balls are made to represent cattle, and 
other balls trimmed with bits of rag to represent men. On 
this Gobardhan the churn-staff, five whole sugar-canes, 
some parched rice, and a lamp are placed. The cowherds 


are called in to worship and are then feasted with rice and 
gur. Gambling and intemperance are the prominent 
elements in this festival, and men go beyond all bounds in 
indulging in these vices. This is also the time when the 
goddess of good fortune visits the homes of the people, and 
they prepare their houses for her visit. The Chamars 
take their shoemakers' tools, or other implements with 
which they earn their living, to the headman of the local 
village group, and at his house perform a fire-sacrifice 
before them. In some places the implements are 
worshipped during the Durga Puja. 

This is a time when a good deal of magic is practised. 
One instance will suffice. A hoot owl, which has been 
carefully kept for a year, is furnished with an image of a 
tiger, upon which to ride, and is made drunk with liquor. 
If a man takes the kajal, made from the ashes secured by 
burning this owl's eyes, and rubs it into his eyes, he 
obtains magical power which puts under his control any 
woman upon whom he looks. On the other hand, a 
man who eats the flesh and liver of such an owl becomes 
the slave of the woman from whom he receives it. (Of 
course, this food is given by stealth.) 



THE Chamar is saturated with animistic ideas. For 
him, inanimate objects, trees, plants, animals, and even 
human beings, are the abodes of spirits. The phenomena 
of nature are a mystery explainable on the ground of the 
spirit world. Furthermore, the experiences of life are 
referred to invisible spirit-forces. To rude men the ups 
and downs of life seem to be dependent upon the mere 
caprice of this invisible host, and this shadowy company 
of unknown powers is responsible for calamity, fever, 
cholera, smallpox, and other untoward events. These 
fickle, treacherous inhabitants of the unseen world, the 
demons and the godlings of disease, must be conciliated : 
and the tutelary godlings, the sainted dead, and other well- 
disposed spirits must be enlisted against the forces of 
calamity and disease. The superstitious man, of necessity, 
is always on the alert to outwit evil and malignant spirits 
and to circumvent their undertakings. 2 

The worship of stones is universal. The respect which 
the Chamar pays to them is independent of the shape or 
finish which they may possess. Village godlings are 
represented by stones, and occasionally stones well-carved 
are found in the house and at the village shrine. As a 
usual thing the stones representing the village godlings are 

1 On the various topics in this and in the following chapters see 
Crooke, An Introduction to the Popular Religion and Folklore of 
Northern India. 

1 See Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. I. pp. 473, 431 ; Census of India, 
1901, Vol. I. Pt. I. p. 352; and Whitehead, The Village Gods 
of South India, p. 145. 


smeared with vermilion, a survival perhaps of the ancient 
blood-sacrifice. This collection of stones under the tree 
on the village boundary is one of the few groups of god- 
lings to whom the Chamar has access. Stones play a part 
in the cure of disease. The stone-mill and the sil and 
batta are fetishes. 

It is easy for simple folk to believe that spirits live in 
trees. Motion is a sign of life ; and, besides, the winds, 
passing through the trees, produce sounds which are heard 
as voices. Trees should not be disturbed after sunset. 
People are loath to cut down living trees. In cleared 
lands some trees are left standing, especially those which 
are known to be inhabited by spirits. The planting of 
trees, on the other hand, is a meritorious act, and it is often 
done with the hope of securing offspring, or increase in 
cattle. There are many trees held in special veneration. 
This is illustrated in their use in the domestic ceremonies, 
in the practice of magic, and in the exorcising of disease. 

One of the most widely venerated trees is the plpal 
(ficus religiosa) , (and its near relatives, e.g., the banyan). 
The worship of this tree, which may be of totemistic 
origin, is connected with the care of the dead and with 
the desire for children. Every leaf of the tree is said to 
be the abode of a god. 

The mm tree (azidirachta indica) enters very largely 
into the Chamar's superstitions, and is perhaps more 
universally revered than any other. In some instances its 
worship is of totemistic origin. Its leaves and branches 
are used in various phases of the practice of magic and in 
the barring of ghosts ; and it is the abiding-place of Sitala 
Mata, the goddess of smallpox. With it are connected 
sun and snake worship. Fresh leaves of this tree are 
applied to snake-bite wounds, and sometimes given to the 
sufferer to chew. 1 Its leaves are used in many ceremonies. 

The mango enters largely into superstitious usages. 
Its wood and leaves are connected with the practice of 
magic, especially that relating to fertility, and its wood is 
used in sun-worship and in the fire-sacrifice. 

1 If they taste sweet, he will die ; if bitter, he will recover. 


The mahua (bassia latifolia) and the babul (acacia 
arabica) are of great economic value. Besides this, the 
former is inhabited by spirits, and the latter is used in 
witchcraft. By pouring water upon a babul tree for 
thirteen days, a person will obtain possession of the spirit 
of the tree. It is believed that a person sleeping on a bed, 
the legs of which are made of babul wood, will have bad 
dreams ; and that the ghost of a man burnt with this 
wood will not rest quietly. 

The bel (aegle marmelos) and the dhak (palasa) are 
venerated also. The latter is used in the marriage ritual, 
and from its flowers the red powder used in the Holi 
is made. The wood of the dhak is used in the fire-sacri- 
fice. Both bel and dhak leaves have medicinal qualities. 

The gular (ficus glomerata) is useful in the practice of 
magic, as is also khair (acacia catechu). The latter 
protects one against magic spells and the evil eye, and 
wizards keep away from its shade. 

Besides these, there are various kinds of trees, such as 
the semal (bombax hephtaphyllum), the siris (acacia sirsa), 
the sal (shorea robusta), and the jhund (prosopis spicigera), 
whose worship is more or less of a local character. 

There are many trees which are pointed out as the 
abodes of particular spirits. The Churel lives in a broken 
tree, or in a tree in the jungle ; and the terrible Dano and 
the giant demons (rakshas) have their special tree abodes. 
It is dangerous to go near these trees, especially late in 
the night. 

The bamboo, the cocoanut, and the plantain are used 
in ceremonies related to fertility. 

The leaves of the tulsi (holy basil) are used in worship 
and as a medicine. 

The serpent is feared and worshipped. Offerings of 
milk and rice are made to secure the goodwill of snakes, 
and they are addressed with euphemistic titles to secure 
immunity from snake-bite. The first milk is sometimes 
offered to Nag. The worship of Raja Basuk y or Vasuk, 
the chief of serpents, is famous; and the legends of Guga 
or Zahrd Pir deal with the control of snakes and protec- 
tion from snake-bite. The great cobra (Sis Nag), in 


shaking his head, causes the earth to quake. The snake 
is the emblem of longevity, since it renews its life from 
time to time, and it is sometimes looked upon as an 
ancestral ghost. The black snake (cobra) is the guardian 
of cattle and of water-springs. It is believed that snakes 
can prophesy ; that they can spit fire ; that they can burn 
anything with their breath ; and that they guard hidden 
treasure. There is a widespread belief in the snake- 
jewel, a stone, or a silky filament which is spun by, or 
spat out by, a snake a thousand years old, on a dark night, 
when it wishes to see. This jewel is luminous. To 
obtain it a person must throw a bit of cow-dung upon it. 
The jewel is very valuable, since it gives immunity from 
all misfortune and the realization of every wish, and 
since it also preserves from drowning. This jewel is an 
antidote to snake poison. 1 Chamars kill snakes. There 
is also a belief in dragons, and certain caves, like that of 
Kausambhi, near Allahabad, are named after such creatures. 

Various animals are venerated. The horse, while not 
actually worshipped, is considered a lucky animal. It is be- 
lieved that the marks on his legs prove that he once had 
wings. His images are used in Guga worship ; and at the 
shrines and platforms of certain saints and godlings images 
of horses are found. 

The donkey is sacred to Sitala. The belief that he 
sees the devil when he brays is of Mohammedan origin. 

The dog is the vehicle of Bhairorh, and he is connected 
also with beliefs concerning the god of the dead. The 
black dog is worshipped as a Jinn, and its grave is sometimes 
honoured. Its secretions are used to scare demons. It is 
fed to save children from dog-bite, and from other diseases 
and sicknesses. 

The cat is an object of reverence. No woman will 
strike a cat, because it is the vehicle of Sati. If a person 
kill a cat, he must beg for a time, and then go to the 
Ganges and bathe. Afterwards he must sprinkle Ganges 
water upon his food, and give a feast to his neighbours. 

1 A similar jewel, or stone, is found in the forehead of the frog 
that jumps and catches birds. 


Chamars believe that a cat has power to make a person 
temporarily blind. This she does in order to steal his food. 
An instance of magic is found in the belief that the after- 
birth of a cat rubbed on the eyes enables one to see in the 

The goat is worshipped, the black goat especially being 
prized for sacrifice. The goat is used also in divination. 

Both the cow and the bull are considered sacred. The 
five products of the cow are very efficient scarers of demons. 
A cow helps the departing spirit over the river of death. 
The Chamars bow before the cow. In some parts they will 
not eat beef, although they will eat of the carcass of a cow 
that has died. The male buffalo is sacred to Kali. At 
the time of purchase Chamars worship both buffaloes and 

The black buck and the elephant are also worshipped. 

The monkey is worshipped in connection with the cure 
of barrenness ; and, as Hanuman, has become a tutelary 
godling in every village. 

The tiger (and the leopard and the panther likewise) 
is worshipped, and parts of its body are used in various 
ways. Tiger's fat cures rheumatism ; its heart and flesh 
are tonics ; and its flesh is burned in the cattle-stall to 
dispel cattle disease, and in the field to ward off blight ; and 
its whiskers and claws are of great value as charms. 
Witches can turn themselves into tigers, and men are 
sometimes so transformed. A tiger without a tail is thus 
explained. A man-eating tiger obtains possession of the 
soul of the person whom he eats. The tiger has titles of 
divinity, as, Baghadeo and Bagheswar. 

The alligator (magar) and the crocodile (ghariydl) are 
held in respect and their flesh is valued. 

Jackal's flesh is used in the practice of magic. 

Many birds are respected. The pigeon, the goose, 
the domestic fowl, the peacock, the parrot, the wagtail, 
the quail, and the " brain-fever bird M are reverenced, 01 
feared. The parrot is a lucky bird to have in a house. 
Indian mothers will divide almonds between parrots and 
their small children, in order that the latter may acquire 
the parrot's fluency of speech. A quail is a lucky pet, 


because he attracts misfortune to himself. If a pigeon 
builds in the roof of a house, ill-luck will follow and the 
place will become deserted. 

Vultures and kites are to be reckoned with. From a 
kite's nest the burglar obtains the magic stick with which 
he opens locks and doors. He secures the stick in the 
following manner: While the young birds are still in the 
nest, he fastens an iron chain to their feet. The mother- 
bird will then go and bring a magic stick with which to 
break the chain and release her young. After the escape 
of the fledglings the nest is taken to a stream, and the 
sticks of which it was built are thrown, one by one, into 
the water. The stick which moves off rapidly like a snake 
in the water, is the magic wand which the thief sought. 

The crow and the owl are unlucky birds. However, 
food is given to crows in the belief that it will thus reach 
the pitris, or ancestors. A crow's caw in the morning 
signifies that a visitor may be expected. 

The owl is a foreboder of evil. Still, it is dangerous to 
try to drive it away by throwing clods at it, for it may 
pick up a clod and rub it down to powder. In that case 
the thrower will fall into a decline and finally die, pre- 
cisely when the clod has been reduced to dust. Both 
the owl and its flesh are used in magic. 

Ants are sacred. They are worshipped with offerings 
of sugar, especially in May and June, and Chamars believe 
that they are able to answer prayers and grant children 
and other blessings. 

Totemism is connected with the belief in spirits ; and 
the life, or perhaps the soul, of some ancestor of the group 
which bears the totem's name was in some way associated 
with the totem. The names of totems found amongst the 
Chamars include those of trees, of seeds and grains, of 
birds, of animals, of individuals and of tribes. 1 

1 Names of gots : (1) Named after trees: ' D ha km at (dhak), 
Pipaliya (pipal), Amba (mango), Nimgotiya (mm), Nimoliya 
(nim), Kujariya (date palm), Haldua (haldi), Simoliya (cotton- 
wood) . Other gots are named after the gular and the jhand trees. 

(2) Named after birds : Parindiya (generic), Chiriyala (generic), 
Hams (goose), and Bateriya (quail). 


Some characteristic tabus are found in connection with 
the totems. For example, those whose gots are named 
after the gular, pipal, jhand, and nim trees will not cook 
their food with the wood of the particular tree that belongs 
to them. Those whose got is the bhef , will not eat the flesh 
of the sheep, nor drink its milk, nor use wool blankets. 

Fetishes are common. Besides the stones of the village 
platform may be named the stone-mill, the pestle and 
mortar, the sil and batta, the plow, the winnowing-fan, 
the khurpl (the hand hoe for cutting grass), the rampl 
(shoemaker's or currier's knife), and the shoemaker's 
last. These all have their special uses, as illustrated in the 
customs described in the preceding chapters. Disease is 
treated by the drinking of water in which a fetish stone 
has been washed. The plow is garlanded on special 
occasions. The sieve is often the first cradle of the baby. 
The halter is a fetish of Jaiswar grooms. To insult this 
by tying a dog with it, results in a fine of five rupees. 1 
The trident is often used as a fetish. The rings and 
chains used by the bhagat in spirit-control and the chains 
found in low-caste temples may be so considered. The 
sariichar ka deotd, the wooden beam of the plow, is 
another fetish. He comes upon a person on certain 
days, particularly Saturday, and causes him to cast the 

(3) Named after seeds, grain and fruits: Matrl (pea), 
Simghariya (water-nut), Gutaliya (stone of mango fruit), Dhansaura 
(rice in the husk), Masuriya (a pulse). 

(4) Named after animals: BheddS, (sheep), Suariyi (pig), 
Gidharivci (jackal), Bhaithsiya (buffalo), Bnerwaliya (sheep), 
Achchhiya bachhiya (calf), Bardhiya (buffalo), and Chherriiya (goat). 
Other gots are named after saints, gods, places, diseases, dust, etc., e.g., 
Dhuliya(dust), Korhirya( leper), Kanhaiya ( Krishna ), Kaliya(Kali), 
Dudhiya (milk), arid Mukhtariya (strength). These names have been 
gathered from a wide field amongst the Chamars. Rose, in his articles 
on the Chamar, gives a number of Rajput clan names as names of 
gots; and Russell in his article gives a number of interesting names: 
Khurhti (a peg), Charhdaniha (sandal wood), Tarwaria (sword), 
Borbaiis (plum), Miri (chillies), Chauria (a whisk), Baraiya (wasp), 
Khalaria (a hide or skin), Kosni (kosa or tasarsilk), and Purain (the 
lotus plant) . 

1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-W$$te.rn Provinces and 
Qudh, Vol. II. p. 173, 


evil eye. Such a person may be delivered from this state 
by being weighed with grain, iron and oil on a Saturday. 
At the special seasons of the Durga Puja and the Dewali 
the Chamar worships his tools and implements. Besides 
this somewhat individualistic, general attitude in the use 
of fetishes, where the man or family or the local group 
makes use of his particular implements or possessions, 
there is an emphasized personal use of the fetish for 
selfish purposes. The fetish is chosen because it is believed 
to be the habitation of some particular spirit or power. 
Unlike an idol, the fetish is not made to resemble the 
spirit ; and unlike a god, the inhabiting spirit cannot 
occupy more than one object at a time. The fetish 
possesses personality and will, and may have human 
characteristics. The owner believes that the fetish may 
act by the will or force of its own proper spirit, or by the 
force of a foreign spirit entering or acting from without. 
So the fetish is worshipped, prayed to, sacrificed to, talked 
with, petted, and ill-treated. Offerings are made to it. 
The owner asks it or compels it to do his bidding. Pro- 
fessor Jevons 1 remarks that a fetish is private property, and 
that fetishism is anti-social and therefore anti-religious. 

Nowhere is the Chamar's belief in spirits more clearly 
illustrated than in his superstitions about demons. These 
evil spirits are an object of propitiation. Their chief 
characteristic seems to be their incalculable nature which 
requires the " watch out n attitude on the part of the 
masses. It is especially the malignant dead whom the 
Chamar, by all means within his reach, propitiates. From 
the malevolent dead nothing is to be hoped for, but 
everything is to be dreaded. These evil spirits are more 
feared by women and by children than by men. Offerings 
of goats, pigs, cocks, eggs, grain, liquor, milk, water, and 
many other things, are made by way of propitiation. 
Besides, these ghosts require all sorts of prepared human 
food. The ranks of these spirits are recruited from the 
ghosts of the dead. 

* Introduction to the Study of Comparative Religion, pp. 120. 
121, 184. 


Some say that any spirit may wander about for twelve 
months, and that one is never sure about them : they 
may be troublesome. If ghosts are still unsettled at the 
end of a year they become bhuts, if male, and churels, if 

There are many kinds of demons and their names vary 
in different parts of the country. Names which are well 
known in some areas are almost unknown in others. But 
the general characteristic of these beings and the pheno- 
mena attributed to them are in all parts of the country 
the same. 

The Vetdl, or Baital, the chief of demons, is described 
variously as wheat-coloured, white, or green. He rides on 
a green horse. He is sometimes counted as a godling. 

The Bhut is, in particular, the spirit of a person who has 
died a violent death, by accident, by suicide, or by capital 
punishment, or the spirit of one whose funeral ceremonies 
have not been performed. The bhut of Awadh is a 
tall, white, shining ghost who impedes men's progress 
along the roads at night. The term " bhut " is used also 
in a more general and comprehensive way to denote 
malevolent spirits. 

The Churel, or Churail, is greatly feared. She is the 
ghost of a woman who has died while unclean, or while 
pregnant, or in child-birth ; or, as some say, such an one 
who has died during the Dewali festival. She is described 
as having pendent breasts, large, projecting teeth, thick 
lips, unkempt hair, and a black tongue, and as of dreadful 
appearance. Her feet, like those of most evil spirits, are 
turned around. Some say that she is black behind and 
white in front. She is especially malignant towards her 
own family. To lay the ghost of a woman who has died 
as described above, and, consequently, to prevent her 
interference with the affairs of men, the body is sometimes 
buried face downwards, and some fill the grave with 
thorns and heavy stones to keep down the ghost. Again, 
small round-headed nails are driven through the nails of the 
forefingers and the two thumbs, and the great-toes are 
welded together with iron rings, to prevent the ghost from 
becoming active. The ground on which the woman died 


is carefully scraped and the earth removed, and the spot 
sown with mustard-seed (sarsorh), and mustard-seed is 
scattered along the road to the grave, or to the burial- 
grounds, to prevent her return home. Mustard blooms in 
the abode of the dead, and the Churel, who will stoop to 
pick up the seeds, is delayed until dawn, and then must 
flee. Sometimes a skein of thread is thrown into the 
funeral pyre, with the thought that the ghost will be 
taken up with the unwinding of the thread and so forget 
to return to trouble her relatives. Some burn the body to 
prevent the escape of the spirit. 

Again, she appears as a beautiful young woman, 
seducing youths at night. She keeps them until they are 
prematurely old. At other times she comes in the form 
of a beautiful girl in white, and leads young men away to 
sacrifice. She appears in other forms too. An old 
Chamar wizard tells of two high-caste brothers, the 
stronger of whom slept in the fields at night to guard the 
crops, while the other remained at home. But the strong 
man suddenly grew weak and lean. Finally, his brother 
asked of him the cause of this great physical decline. In 
reply the other said : " A Churel comes to me every night 
and obliges me to cohabit with her." Thereupon, the 
younger brother decided to guard the crops. So, taking 
a pair of shears he went to the field. That night the 
Churel came and slept with him. In the night he cut 
her scalp-lock (chutiya) very stealthily and concealed it. 
In the morning the Churel awoke a mere naked woman, 
and she was unable to escape. So he gave her a loin- 
cloth (dhoti), took her home and kept her as his wife. 
They reared a family, and grandchildren were born to 
them. Then, one day, she asked her husband for her 
chutiya. She said that she wished to dance because she 
had grandchildren. At first he refused her request ; but 
his friends agreed that, now that she had children and 
grandchildren to think of, she would not run away. So, 
at last, he granted her petition. As soon as she had 
obtained her chutiya she disappeared. The same Chamar 
related how a Churel came to him one night, about ten 
o'clock, as he was watching in a field. HQ {bought jt 


was his wife, and asked, " Who are you?" The Churel 
replied, " I am Baba Din's mother." By this he knew 
that it was someone else, so he said, "Come along," 
made a place for her in his bed, and took out his knife so 
as to be able to cut her chutiya; but she discovered his 
design and fled. The Churel is often enrolled among the 
village godlings and given a place in the common shrine. 
All who see her are liable to be attacked by some wasting 
disease. And those who come out at night in response to 
her call are sure to die. If the Churel be seen in the 
home, a heated brick or a hot iron is thrown into the 
place that she frequents. She is thus driven away. 

Another ghost, called the Gayal, or Ut, is the spirit of 
a man who has died sonless or unmarried, and who, 
consequently, has no one competent to perform his funeral 
rites. His malice is directed towards the sons of other 
folks, especially towards those of his relatives or his caste- 
fellows. The duty of performing his funeral rites devolves 
upon those next of kin or upon his neighbours, and they, 
in self-protection, see that these rites are faithfully carried 
out. In the Punjab, small platforms, in which are small 
hemispherical depressions, are constructed for the Gayal. 
In these milk and Ganges water are offered, and on these 
platforms lamps are lighted for him. A careful mother 
dedicates a coin to Gayal, and hangs it about her son's 
neck to protect him through childhood and youth, and 
until he has begotten a son. 

The Pret, or Paret (fem. Pretnl) , is the ghost of 
a deformed or of a defective person. To this class belong 
the spirits of those who were crippled, or who lacked an 
organ or a limb. The ghost of a child dying prematurely, 
or of a still-born child, may be called a Paret. The follow- 
ing narrative shows how vague may be the conception 
of just what a Paret is: "On one occasion I was with 
a Brahman in a field where sheaves of grain were piled 
beside the threshing-floor. Some time after dark I noticed 
that some of the sheaves were being thrown about ; 
so I suggested to my companion that he drive away 
the animal that was causing the trouble. But he 
refused to do so. Thereupon I took a club and went 



to drive it away. I saw a bullock, which, as I stood 
and looked, changed itself into a horse. The horse 
became a camel, and the camel became an elephant. I 
had presence of mind enough to call upon my Blr (a 
powerful demon) for help. The Bir came, and when I 
knew that he had come by a peculiar twitching in the 
flesh of my right upper-arm I felt safe. The elephant in- 
creased in height to about thirty feet and then disappeared. 
I was taken ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, but relief 
came after my father had made an offering to the Bir." 
The same narrator told the following story : " During one 
season, while I was watching the fields at night, I slept 
under a tamarind tree. Every night an evil spirit came 
and lay down on my chest. After this had happened a 
number of times, I spoke to a Brahman, who was sleeping 
in an adjoining field, and to his uncle. They both laughed 
at me. So, when the evil spirit came upon me again, I 
spoke to him, saying, * If you are able to do so, go to that 
Brahman/ The ghost went that very night. Later, I 
heard the Brahman call out, * Ah ! Ah ! ' I shouted to him 
five times, calling him by name (Ramapat). He was 
unable to answer immediately, but a little later he called 
out to me, saying, ' Did you call me five times ? I heard 
you, but I could not speak because someone was sitting on 
my chest and holding me by the throat.' The Brahman 
fell ill and died." Such stories as these show how 
completely the Chamar lives in the fear of evil spirits. The 
Pret is not always malicious. 

The Pisach is a demon resulting from a man's vices, 
and is in reality the spiritual embodiment of some vice, as 
the lying spirit, the thief spirit, and the like, or the spirit 
of insanity. 

Another much dreaded demon is the Masan. He is 
especially ill-disposed towards children, whom he often 
changes to yellow, red, or green colour. He also causes 
them to waste away and die, by casting his shadow upon 
them. He is known only by his works, and, because of his 
invisibility, is most dreaded. If water from the cooking of 
the food fall on the fire so as to put it out, the household 
js in terror lest the children be beset by Masan. If a 


woman allow her chadar to drag behind her the Masan 
will follow her home. He will not disturb her, but the 
children will pine away. And if children are born 
they will die. After putting out a lamp with the fingers, 
it is unsafe to rub them on the clothes for fear of the 
Masan. A child may be delivered from the power of the 
Masan by being weighed in salt. The Masan is said to 
be also the ghost of a child, and that of a low-caste man 
(a telly or oil-presser). 

The female demon, Masdnt, is the spirit of the burial- 
grounds. She comes out at night from the ashes of the 
funeral pyre and attacks people as they pass by. The 
Masani is black and hideous in appearance. She is often 
rated as a sister of Sitala. 

The Rakshasas are ogres, or giants, found in trees, 
in birds, and in cisterns. Some are deformed. They 
sometimes animate dead bodies. They devour human 
beings, and eat raw flesh and carrion. They cause vomit- 
ing and indigestion. They carry under their finger-nails 
a deadly poison. They often assume the form of an old 
woman with long hair. When they take human form 
their heels are in front. Local tradition often considers 
them as the architects of ancient buildings now in ruins. 
Like other demons they are active at night, when they 
mislead travellers. They are easily fooled, and can be 
made to disclose their secrets. They travel through the 
air, and depart with the dawn. Among the especial 
classes of rakshasas are the Deo, a gigantic, powerful, 
stupid, long-lipped cannibal ; the Btr, a malignant village- 
demon of great power, who, amongst other things, brings 
disease upon cattle ; and the Dano, who often lives in a 
bargat tree. The wizard in whose house the Bir lives 
may ask what he wishes and the demon will carry out 
his request. But the Bir may live anywhere and still be 
in the wizard's power. The wise man may summon 
him at will. The Dano often pounces upon men, espe- 
cially young men, at night. 

Another dreaded demon is the Dund (or truncated), 
the ghost of an unburied Mussulman martyr. He rides a 
horse, but has neither head, hands, nor feet. He has his 


head tied on to the pommel of his saddle. He comes periodi- 
cally, and calls out to people at night ; and he who comes 
out-of-doors in response to his calls is sure to die or to go 
insane. Frequently rumours are afloat that the Dund is 
about, and then all people keep carefully indoors at night. 

There are a number of demons with generic names, as 
the Brahma-Purusha, the ill-tempered ghost of a Brah- 
man ; the BaramdeOy a similar ghost ; the Manushyadeo ; 
the spirit of a widow's deceased husband ; and the spirit 
of a second wife's predecessor. These spirits must be 
given plenty of attention. The Bhagaut is the ghost of a 
man killed by a tiger. 

Among the fiends are the Chordeva (sometimes called 
the Manushdevd),Jilaiyd, Rarulchiryd and Mareti. Chor- 
deva is a birth-fiend, who comes in the form of a cat and 
worries the mother or tears her womb ; so cats are not 
allowed in the birth-chamber. Jilaiya takes the form of a 
night-bird and sucks the blood of persons whose names 
it hears. So children are not called by name at night. 
If this fiend fly over the head of a pregnant woman her 
child will be born a weakling. The Mareli is a bird-fiend, 
who comes and sits on a tree near a house where a man 
lies sick, and calls out. If anyone should throw a clod at 
her, she picks it up and drops it into a tank, or pond. As 
the clod dissolves, the sick man wastes away and dies. If 
this bird is killed on a Sunday and its body burned, after 
certain incantations have been pronounced over it, the 
ashes become a valuable love-charm. Any woman over 
whom a man throws these ashes will follow him. 

Pheru and Rahmd are now demons of the whirlwind. 
To avoid the effects of an approaching whirlwind a person 
should repeat the charm : " Bhdl Pheru terl kdr " (I am 
within thy charmed circle, O holy Pheru). If this for- 
mula be repeated three times, the evil spirits who come 
with the whirlwind will do no harm. There are demons 
of the storm, of the lightning, of the thunder, and of 
other natural phenomena. 

The Dodo and the Hawa are invoked to scare children. 
Other bugaboos abound, one of whom is an old man with 
a boy who carries off naughty children. 


The number of demons with functions and character- 
istics like those described above is legion. 

The Paris are fairies, most beautiful spirits, who carry 
away beautiful persons. They take away the blossoms of 
the gular tree at night. These are for the most part 
creatures who are harmless, and who fall in love with 
human beings. They are visible to the pure eyes of child- 
hood. On the other hand, the Paris attack men on moonlight 
nights, catching them by the throat, half choking them 
and knocking them down. They protect children. 

The Chamar accepts also most of the Mohammadan 
varieties of spirits, such as Jinns, Ifrit and Mar id. 

All demons require food, preferably the blood of animals, 
and they must be propitiated ; yet they have no regular 
worship and no imposing temples. 

Since demons multiply in proportion as the death 
ceremonies are neglected, everything is done to facilitate 
the passage of the spirit to the abode of the dead, to " lay " 
the ghost, and to " bar" its return. So the dying man is 
placed on the ground, and the mourners at the funeral 
wail to keep off evil spirits of obstruction ; the body is 
carried feet foremost, and other devices are employed 
during the funeral ceremonies as provision against any 
possibility of the spirit's return ; and here again we see 
the significance of the funeral rites. The burial-party 
bathe after the cremation or burial ceremonies are com- 
pleted ; on the homeward journey they do not look 
back ; on the way back they step over running water and 
throw bricks or stones over their shoulders ; and when 
they reach the house, they shake out the folds of their gar- 
ments and touch stone, cow-dung, iron, fire and water; 
then they also touch the left ear with the little finger of 
the left hand, chew nim-leaves, sit in silence to allow the 
spirit if it has come so far to depart, and then disperse in 
silence. The chief mourner carries a lota about with him 
until the funeral ceremonies are completed. 

There is a close connection between disease and 
demons, and many kinds of sickness, and often death itself, 
are attributed to demoniacal influences. This close 
association in the minds of the Chamar is emphasized by 


the fact that most of the means used to scare demons, and 
as protection against evil eye, are used in the prevention and 
cure of disease. The demons that cause disease are legion. 
Their worship is of the crudest form. Only in time of 
calamity, or when epidemics are rife, is much attention 
paid to them. Long periods of health and prosperity 
result in the neglect of these godlings and in their shrines 
falling into decay. These demon godlings, whose dis- 
pleasure brings disease, are more or less local. Of course, 
any demon may be responsible for the disease. In most 
cases of illness the demon responsible for the trouble must 
be identified by the Say and, or devil-priest. Some diseases 
have caste names, as, for example, one form of smallpox, 

When an epidemic is raging, all the powerful disease 
demons and malignant godlings are propitiated. 

The line of distinction between godlings and demons 
of disease is hard to draw. Many of them are known 
as forms of Kail. The names of aspects of Kali which 
are current in some parts of the country are scarcely 
known in other areas. She has control over many forms 
of disease, among which plague is now prominent. If 
propitiated she will prevent disease, but if angry she 
will bring it upon those who have offended her. Her 
power is felt in diseases other than smallpox, although 
Sitala is sometimes considered as one of her forms. It is 
to this dreadful Kali, in some of her aspects, that offerings 
are made when epidemics are raging. 

Man, or Man Mat, the cholera goddess, has special 
shrines, and the nim tree is worshipped as her abode. 
Offerings of pumpkins, cocks, male buffaloes, rams, 
he-goats and puris are made to her. The offered animal 
is decapitated at one blow before her altar. Umariyd 
Mdtd is worshipped in cases of cholera. The word 
" cholera M (Haiza) is sometimes personified. The dread 
disease is often attributed to some unnamed but powerful 
demon. In some places a new plague-goddess has appeared, 
Kartithi Mdtd. 

Sitald Mdtd (Mata, Mother; Jagrani, Queen of the 
World; Mata Mai, Great Mother; Jagadamba, Mother 


of the Earth ; Kalejewali, She of the Liver ; Tharhdi, She 
that Loves the Cool ; and Phapholewali, She of the 
Vesicle), the goddess of smallpox, lives in the nim tree. 
Her feast day, which is known as Sltala ki Saptarm, is 
the seventh of the dark half of each month. No fire is 
lighted then. She is also worshipped on each Monday in 
the month of June. Her worshippers are women and 
children, never men. As a household goddess she is 
called Tharhdi, and she has her place behind the waterpots, 
where she is worshipped by the house-mother with cold 
food and cold water only. She has special shrines and 
small temples, sometimes in charge of a devil-priest, 
or of a low-caste man, a Chamar or a sweeper. There 
is one to her in the Muzaffarnagar district, where she 
is worshipped as Ujali Mata, or the Bright Mother. 
The offerings made here are cakes, sweetmeats, and gur. 
When children are suffering from the disease, water is 
poured over her shrine. This is magic. Another shrine, 
at Raewaia in Dehra Dun, is visited by large crowds. Here 
vows are made to obtain children, and children born by her 
gracious favour are brought to the shrine. Offerings are 
made in lives. There is a than (shrine) of hers at 
Sikandarpur, in Bijnor, where a mela is regularly held. 
There is a temple in Gurgaon, open to all castes, where 
special religious fairs are held and where every Monday 
people come to worship. There is another temple at 
Jalaun. These notes illustrate the local character of her 
places of worship, which are found all over the country, 
nearly every village or group of villages having such a 

Sitala carries a broom and a basket. She sweeps men 
about when she comes, gathers them in her winnowing- 
basket and scatters them to the winds. 

Her vehicle, the donkey, on which she rides in a state of 
nudity, is a type of slow motion, which means that she 
takes a long time to go away. Some say that she rides on 
a tiger. 

She is one of seven sisters, who are supposed to cause 
pustular diseases. One is Masani, who plagues people 
with boils. She has ears as large as winnowing-fans, 


projecting teeth, a hideous face, large eyes, and wide-open 
mouth. She rides on an ass, carrying a broom in one hand, 
a pitcher in the other, and a winnowing-fan on her head. 
The offerings made to her are afterwards given to scaven- 
gers and jogis. Agwdnl is the fever-goddess, who heats the 
body. Sitala's elder sister, Chamdriyd, is the disease in its 
worst form. This is an interesting name. Other castes 
make offerings to her in the form of a pig sacrificed by a 
Chamar. Her younger sister, Phulmati,, represents a mild 
form of smallpox. The other sisters are Basantl and 

A peculiarity in the case of Sitala is that the 
disease is the goddess, and the eruptions are signs 
of her presence. Some say that " during an attack of 
smallpox no offerings are made, and, if the epidemic has 
once seized upon the village, all worship of her is 
discontinued until the disease has disappeared. But, so 
long as she keeps her hands off, nothing is too good 
for the goddess. " 

A considerable body of magic has grown up about 
the treatment of smallpox. When the dread disease is 
about, the chapdtl is not cooked in the usual way. When 
the loaf is half kneaded, it and the cook's hands are dipped 
in flour before it is flattened. If this is done, blisters do 
not form when the bread is placed on the tawa to be 
cooked. Besides, this method obviates the sputtering 
sound, which is offensive to Sitala, and so averts her anger. 
Another valuable practice is to use simple and unusual 
methods of preparing food when smallpox is in the village 
or mahalla. So the food to be cooked is put into the pot 
all at once. During an outbreak of the disease, womsn 
worship Sitala's shrines and pour water over them to kee*> 
her cool. Water is poured also at the foot of the nim tree 
and at cross-roads. 

In Tirhut a feast to Jur Sital, or smallpox fever, is held. 
The people bathe in water drawn the previous night, and 
eat cooked food after worshipping her. From morning 
till noon they cover their bodies with mud, and throw it 
over all whom they meet. In the afternoon they go out 
'with clubs and hunt jackals, hares, and any other animals 


that they happen to meet in the village. After they return 
they boast of their valour. 

Women visitors are not allowed to come into the sick- 
room, and while the disease is raging people will not go 
on a journey, not even on a pilgrimage. Offerings of 
flowers, milk and Ganges water are made. For relief 
during the course of the disease seven suits of clothes, 
bound in a thread, and betel-nut, are waved over the 
patient and then cast into a well. The black dog is 
respected and fed as a propitiation when smallpox is 
about, and sometimes a donkey, the vehicle of Sitala, is 
fed with fried gram. Gram is also waved over the head of 
the sick child, presented at a shrine, and given to the 
donkey's master. Fowls, pigs and goats are offered. A 
white cock is sometimes waved over the patient and then 
let loose. As thunder disturbs Sitala, the stone mill, or 
copper plates, or cooking utensils are rattled near the 
child's ear during a storm. If the smallpox disappear 
prematurely, a relative goes at night to a tank, naked, and 
brings, in a new vessel, water from beneath a dhobi's 
washboard. Some of the water is then poured over one of 
Sitala's shrines, and the rest is brought home, passed into 
the house through the roof from behind, and then sprinkled 
on the patient. Sometimes, after six or seven days, a sick 
child is covered with silver leaf and given raisins to eat ; 
and, as the disease abates and the pox dries up, water is 
sprinkled over the body of the child. Musicians are called 
in, and the child is dressed in saffron-coloured clothes and 
carried to one of Sitala's shrines. There a pipal tree is 
besmeared with red-lead and sprinkled with curds, and red 
rags are tied to its branches. Thorns are cast in the 
pathway leading to the infested place to bar her return. 
Other elements in the treatment of the disease will be 
described under folk remedies and magic. 

When an adult has recovered from smallpox a pig is 
let loose in the name of Sitala, lest the patient have a 
relapse. Upon recovery, offerings are made, consisting of 
cocoanut, betel-nut, haldi, dub-grass and a black goat. 
Smallpox must have been a most terrible scourge in the 
days before vaccination was introduced. 


Strange and impracticable as it may seem, there are 
unfailing tests by which demons may be recognized. 
They cast no shadows ; they can stand almost anything 
but the smell of burning turmeric, and they always speak 
with a nasal twang. Some are deformed, while others are 
of special colours. There are many places where bhuts are 
likely to be found, and where it is unsafe to venture unless 
well protected. Burial-places, cremation-grounds and all 
deserts are infested with demons ; birds such as the owl 
are possessed by evil spirits ; empty houses and old ruins 
are haunted ; some ancient ruins are attributed to demoni- 
acal activity ; the sites of old villages are respected as in- 
fested with ghosts ; mines and caves are abiding-places of 
demons, and evil spirits are said to be guardians of hidden 
treasure. It is because spirits frequent cross-roads and 
highways that sometimes, to get rid of disease, a stake is 
driven into the ground at the crossing of roads, and seeds 
are scattered about it, and that smallpox scabs are placed 
at road-crossings and along the highways. The village 
boundary is a place where all sorts of demons congregate, 
so we have Chdmundd, or Sewdnriki (Sewanriyd), taking 
up her post to protect the village from foreign spirits. 
Foul places are the abodes of demons, so the Chamar 
cleans his house but leaves his yard filthy. Demons are 
found on the roofs of houses. But bhuts can never sit on 
the ground (Earth is a devil-scarer); hence, at low-caste 
shrines, pegs or bricks are set up, or a bamboo is hung 
over the shrine as a resting-place for demons. A person 
who is going on a pilgrimage to the Ganges, bearing the 
bones of a dead man, sleeps on the ground but hangs up 
the bones, as they must not touch the earth. Near shrines 
it is best to sleep on the ground. The dying man is 
placed on the ground, and the bride and groom sleep on 
the ground. Sweet-smelling flowers are infested by 
bhuts, and for this reason children are sometimes not 
allowed to smell them ; nor do the people use perfumes on 
children. Demons are very fond of milk, and so that 
must be protected by a piece of charcoal. They are never 
found in the temples of the gods, although they are always 
near by. 


Spirits attack and enter the body through the head, 
hair, mouth, eye, ear, hand or foot. Some say that the 
Pret enters through the feet, the Deo through the head 
or hands, but the Bhut through the eye or ear. So the 
feet are washed at weddings, and the bride is lifted over 
the threshold ; the head is shaved at puberty and at times 
of mourning ; the eyelids are blackened ; bracelets and 
anklets are worn, and many other devices are made use 
of to outwit demons. Opportune times for demons 
arise when one yawns, so one should at such a time clap 
his hands or snap his fingers and call out " Narayan ! " At 
meals care should be taken in preparing food and in eating, 
and during festivals ; hence the elaborate preparations in 
the domestic ceremonies. The effects of spirit entry, or 
possession, are disease, barrenness, loss of favour or of 
affection, failure in business, and general misfortune. 

The times when persons are most subject to 
demoniacal possession are at birth, at marriage, and at 
death, the great crises in life ; and, consequently, it will be 
perfectly clear that many of the ceremonies connected 
with these events have for their object the scaring of 
ghosts. Besides, women and children, as in the old 
classic days, are always subject to demoniacal influences. 
It becomes necessary, therefore, to work out a system by 
which demons may be kept off, and means by which people 
may be protected from evil influences. The following 
devices apply to spirits in general, but they all have in 
mind evil spirits in particular. The bridegroom wears 
a crown and clothes of bright colours ; both the bride and 
groom are protected by wave ceremonies and many other 
devices The foods, the grains, and the colours of various 
ceremonies are chosen for protective purposes. The tuft 
of hair furnishes a resting-place for a spirit, so sometimes 
the added precaution is taken of tying into it a piece of 
blue-black thread or rag. Lampblack is rubbed on the 
eyelids. Rings and bracelets are used. Charms and amulets 
are worn. Women put memhdi on their hands and feet. 
At night, when travelling, aChamar meeting another person 
will not speak, lest, his voice being heard, he draw upon 
himself some evil influence and his business come to naught. 


An enumeration of the various devices used as 
protection against demons throws a flood of light upon the 
commonplace practices and customs of the Chamar. 

Iron is potent in keeping off demons, especially when 
it is fashioned into a tool. Horseshoes are found at 
shrines, and they are nailed to the threshold to keep out 
evil spirits. Iron is found in the bed in the lying-in room ; 
the mother wears an iron ring during the days of impurity 
after childbirth ; nails are driven into bedposts, and are 
used in "laying" the Churel ; and he who lights the 
funeral-fire carries iron. The cooking-vessel is turned 
upside down at night, at the right of the head of the bed 
in the lying-in room, to protect the child from demons. 
If nails are driven into the four bedposts no evil spirit will 
attack him who sleeps upon the bed. 

Other metals are in constant use : copper in rings, 
amulets and coins, and brass in the lota, which every 
mourner carries with him until the death ceremonies are 
completed, and which is used when a person goes to per- 
form the offices of nature. Bell-metal and other mineral 
products are worn as bracelets, anklets and rings, and 
around the neck. Tinsel is found in the crown and on 
the clothes of the bridegroom, and in the karhgna. 

Marine products, such as coral and shells, are used 
as ornaments, but with a practical purpose as well. 
Kauriam are often seen bound on the arm, or around 
the neck, or in the hair; and they are used to protect 
animals as well. 

Precious stones, while believed in, are beyond the reach 
of the poorer classes. Imitations are in use. The cutting 
and the shaping of these is significant. Much use is made 
of beads, especially blue beads. Rosaries and the hdr have 
protective powers. 

Salt is a potent protection. Salt and red mustard are 
scattered around tbe patient's head to cast out fever. 
Salt is given after sweats, to protect children from the 

Incense and smoke resulting from burning certain 
things are also potent in keeping off devils. Incense is 
burned at the chhatthi ceremony. Sometimes, when a 


child is ill, incense is obtained by burning bran, powdered 
chillis, mustard and the child's lashes. While these 
ingredients are burning the fire is waved around the child's 
head. In most instances the vileness of the smell of the 
incense is the important thing, and the worse it smells 
the better the result. Among other things that are burnt 
for similar purposes are leather, human filth, tiger's flesh, 
human hair, droppings of pigs and dogs, sulphur and 
lobdn. Cow-dung and many kinds of filth are used as 
devil-scarers, and the five products of the cow are most 

Blood, especially menstrual blood, is a potent charm 
against demoniacal influences, except those of the Churel. 
Traces of the use of blood are seen in the red marks made 
upon the drum in certain ceremonies and in the marriage 
ritual, where vermilion is used for the tika, and in the 
handprint on the houses. 

Water, fire, earth and ashes all find an important 
place in social and religious rites where protection from 
evil spirits is necessary. This explains, to some extent at 
least, the ceremonial bathing in the domestic customs, the 
use of lights and of the fire-sacrifice, the magic-earth 
ceremony, and numerous other devices of a similar nature. 
Water from a tanner's well is very effective. 

Grains, particularly barley, rice and urd, as well as 
mustard, are used. Parched grain is valuable. Special 
spells are pronounced over rice. Among spices and 
vegetables turmeric is to be especially noted ; likewise the 
betel-nut, the cocoanut, the plantain and garlic. 

Many colours are regularly used, chiefly yellow, red, 
white, blue and black. The wedding-garments are of 
red and yellow; the woman during her period of pregnancy 
uses blue-black clothes or threads ; and coloured threads 
enter into the domestic ceremonies. Charcoal is put into 
milk, and lucky signs are made with it (and in red and in 
cow-dung) on doors and pots. 

Oil and ghi are used on images and in the ubtan. 
They are often mixed with red-lead. 

Feathers are used, as in the worship connected with 
Zahra Pir. A bit of peacock-feather, struck on the wall 


above the waterpots with cow-dung, protects the drinking- 
water from the evil eye. 

Branches and leaves of the dhak, the nim, the 
bamboo, the castor-oil plant and the tulsi shrub are potent 
scarers. Grasses are also used. 

Leather, especially shoe-leather, is a devil-scarer ; so the 
father puts his shoe upside down at night, near the foot of 
the bed, as a protection for his child. Shoe-heels are also used. 
When the spindle of the spinning-wheel begins to " talk " 
and does not run well, they beat it with a shoe to drive 
out the demon who is making the trouble. When a 
person begins to scratch his nose it is believed that he will 
be attacked by some disease due to a demon. It is wise, 
therefore, to take a shoe from some person who comes into 
the house, and rub the nose seven times with it as a 
preventative measure. To cure epilepsy the sufferer is 
made to smell an old shoe. 

Some special devices used to drive off demons include 
wave ceremonies, noises, and figures. Waving scares 
demons. This partly explains the wave ceremonies men- 
tioned above, and accounts for flags at temples. Nim 
branches are waved to exorcise spirits. If, at the time of 
the wedding, the activity of the power of fascination is 
suspected, salt is waved around the head of the bride and 
groom, and burned near the house-door as a charm. 
Certain forms of dancing may have this significance. 
Noises scare demons. This accounts for the use of loud 
and noisy music at festivals and ceremonies and in many 
practices connected with demonology. The beating of 
the tawa and the ringing of bells belong here. The clap- 
ping of one's hands, as noted above, has this function. 
In visiting an old tomb one may catch a harmless spirit 
unawares, and, as he resents being disturbed, one should 
clap one's hands.. And yet silence is maintained at special 
times, as during the measuring of the grain. Certain 
symbols and figures are of great value. They are found 
about the house and on the cooking-vessels, upon the pots 
and about temples and shrines. The circle in various 
devices is found everywhere. It appears in rings, in 
karhgnas, and in other ornaments. The magic circle is 


drawn in connection with the Nag Panchami festival. 
The circle is found also in knots and in arches. Both 
the double and the single triangles and the square are 
common. The swastika is found upon doors and door- 
posts and in many other places. This is to be seen where 
family gods are placed, and often in a shrine of Bhumaiya. 
Here it consists of two straws on a daub of cow-dung 
plaster. It is a symbol of blessing. The magic hand 
appears in red, yellow and black, and in cow-dung. When 
found upright on a shrine, it denotes a prayer ; when 
reversed, it indicates that the prayer has been answered. 
The protecting hand may be seen on bullocks and on 
houses. Other references may be found in the domestic 
customs. Crossed lines are used. Various figures are used 
in connection with the worship of Shasti, and many other 
symbols are drawn for protective purposes. 

Connected with the subject of protection from demons 
is the use of caste-marks and tattooing. Some Chamar 
women wear on the feet, as a distinguishing caste-mark, 
a specially shaped anklet, called dhundhm. It used to 
be the custom for Chamars who were at work with 
other caste-men, and who did not wish to conceal 
their caste, to tie around their pipe (chilam), or 
tongues, a small leather thong. Chamar women, much 
more than other women, have themselves tattooed. This 
is done upon the breast, stomach, upper and lower arms, 
hands and feet, and upon certain parts of the face. In 
some cases this is a ceremony of initiation. These are 
the only ornaments that a Chamari can take with her 
beyond the grave. When a Chamari dies Parmeshwar 
asks her to display the marks and signs which she ought 
to possess to show that she has lived on the earth. If she 
cannot show these tattoo marks, she will not see her 
father and mother in the next world, but will reappear as 
a bhutni, a pretni, or a rakshasl. So tattooing takes place 
about the time of the marriage ceremony. 

The origin of the use of many of these devices for 
scaring ghosts is undoubtedly in utility. The medicinal 
value of certain herbs and of the leaves of certain trees 
explains some of these practices. Other are more obscure. 


Many are the hit-or-miss results of insufficient observation 
and have been handed down from time immemorial. 

Some of the devices described as devil-scarers appear in 
the practice of magic also, and in connection with the 
belief in the evil eye. And these two latter phases of 
primitive belief and practice illustrate further the methods 
used to control, or to defeat, the plans of demons. 

The materials presented so far in this chapter, and a 
good deal of material in the preceding chapters, show how 
thoroughly the attention of the Chamar is occupied with 
malevolent spirits. He has, however, a great number of 
benevolent spirits as well, whom he enlists forprotection and 
for aid against the forces of evil. The sainted dead and other 
spiritual beings, some of whom have attained unto some 
degree of divinity, and the godlings occupy an important 
place in his thinking. It is difficult to draw the line in 
some cases and to determine whether the ghost is a 
benevolent or a malevolent spirit. If some person die 
under unusual or untoward circumstances, or if some 
extraordinary event transpire, a shrine is built to appease the 
spirit concerned. So, special shrines and platforms are 
constantly appearing. Many sadhus and other holy men 
are revered, and their worship is carried on over a more 
or less wide area for a time after their death. In these 
ways countless local shrines arise, to which pilgrimages are 
made in the expectation of material prosperity, relief from 
disease, or the boon of offspring. Examples of such places 
are two graves of Nanak Panthi gurus at Bhogpur (in 
Bijnor) and that of a sadhu at Jhalu (in Bijnor). The 
graves of the former are visited in the rainy season. At 
Bijnor two brothers, Nur-ud-din and Shahab-ud-din, are 
rated as saints. To one batasas, and to the other cups of 
spirits are offered. In times of sickness these brothers are 
worshipped, and in their names vows are made. Their 
graves are visited five times a year. At each of the first 
four visits the worshipper walks around the graves once, 
and on the fifth visit five times. 

In a Chamar village, in the eastern part of the Pro- 
vinces, there is a large beehive-shaped shrine to Hem 
Raj. The structure, which rests under a tree on the 





outskirts of the village, is in a dilapidated condition. In 
front may be found a small earthen saucer with a wick in 
it, the remains of a lamp placed there as an offering. 
One day, while Hem Raj was entertaining the people of 
the village, a woman cast a magic spell upon him. 
He fell down in a fit of apoplexy and died. He was 
buried on the spot, and a mound of earth was erected to 
his memory. Here worshjp is still carried on. 

The legend of Nat Baba also illustrates how places of 
pilgrimage arise. On one of the banks of the Ken river is 
an old and ruined fort, and back from the opposite bank is 
a rocky hill. In the old days, the Raja who owned the fort 
challenged a Nat (one of a tribe of wandering acrobats) to 
stretch a rope from the hill to the fort, while the river was 
in flood, and to walk on it from the hill to the fort. The 
Nat was to receive half of the kingdom should he be suc- 
cessful. The challenge was accepted and the performance 
begun. When the Nat reached the middle of the stream 
the Rani began to fear that the Raja would lose half his 
kingdom. So she tried to get someone to cut the rope 
and so plunge the Nat to death. No one, however, was 
willing to cut the rope, because the Nat was performing 
his feat by means of magic. At last it was reported that 
the Chamar's rampi was a non-conductor of magic, and a 
Chamar was persuaded to cut the rope. Before he died, 
the Nat cursed the queen and the kingdom. The ruined 
fort is the fulfilment of his curse. The Nat was buried 
below the fort, on the river-bank. His grave is now a place 
of pilgrimage, where people make offerings for children and 
wealth. The Nat has become a saint and is called Nat 

In some parts of the country a group known as the 
Five Saints (Pdnch Plr) are revered. The names of the 
five are not always the same and many are found in the 
list. We have in these a grouping according to a lucky 
number, five. They are better known towards the 
Punjab. The names of the five are, for the most part, of 
local significance, and many of them are names of 
Mussulmans. For these five Chamars^set up five pegs 
in their homes. Among the five are (1) Shekh Sarwar, 



who is buried at Hardwar. He is worshipped with offer- 
ings of very thick bread and coarse flour. (2) Mir an 
Sahib is a headless horseman who has a dargah at Amroha. 
He has a brother, (3) Giar ' Samaddn. Both of these 
brothers have shrines at Bijnor. (4) Gdzi Mian, who 
died at Bahraich in 1034, in early life, is sometimes 
reckoned amongst the five. (5) Gdzi Sdldr (Bara Miydn, 
Bale Miydn y Masud Sdldr Gdzi) is now the patron saint 
of the inhabitants of the British cantonments of North 
India. 1 

Another saint, Kalu Blr, Kalu Bdba, 2 was a brave 
strong man of the Gujar caste. His grave is at Barha- 
pura (in Bijnor), where he has many followers. Tradi- 
tion has it that he is the son of king Solomon and a 
Kahar girl, who by magic compelled the king to marry 
her. The saint has a good many followers, especially in 
the Meerut Division, many of whom are Chamars. His 
fetish is a stick decorated with peacock feathers, and he 
is worshipped with petty offerings of food. It is said that, 
if gur and cakes are offered to him, he will lift wagons out 
of ruts and do other similar tasks that require great 

Burhd Bdba (Bdbu) was a dwarf of the potter caste. 
Some say that he was only three feet tall, but that he was so 
large of girth that his belt would enclose twelve buffaloes. 
If he is not properly propitiated he will cause white leprosy 
and other terrible diseases. But he protects and serves his 
friends. When disease is epidemic and the cause is attri- 
buted to Burha Baba, a potter is summoned. Under his 
direction the sick man's friends take clay from the 
potter's wheel and apply it to the diseased parts. Then 
offerings are made, some of which are set apart for the 
saint, and placed before the potter. In connection with the 
preparation for the wedding Burha Baba is worshipped. A 
visit is made to the village potter, where his wheel is 
worshipped with offerings of grain and marked with haldi. 
Afterwards the vessels for use in the wedding are purchased 

1 Legends of the Punjab, Vol. I. No. V, and notes. 
* See Chapter VIII. p. 219. 


and taken home. The potter comes to the house and 
makes a kamgna out of a strip of new white cloth, by 
fastening in it a betel-nut, an iron ring and a bit of 
turmeric. This he ties on the wrist of the bride (or groom) 
for protection. In Burha Baba we have a good illustra- 
tion of the mixture of elements belonging to both the fear 
of the malevolent dead and reverence for the benevolent 

Another interesting saint is Bdba Farid 1 (Baba Shekh 
Farid), a famous robber. One day, when he was about to 
rob and murder a faqir in the jungle, the saint asked him 
who of his family would go surety for him in this world 
and in the next. Farid asked his family and they all 
refused to do so, so he reformed. Baba Farid is also known 
as Sakkar Ganj, or Ganj Sakkar, from the reputed honour of 
having turned stone into sugar. He was a thrifty saint, 
who, for the last thirty years of his life, nourished himself 
by holding to his stomach wooden cakes and fruits 
whenever he was hungry. He had a magic bag from 
which he could get anything he wished. In the upper 
Uoab, the ceremony of the first boiling of the sugar-cane 
is connected with him. Sugar-cane juice is passed around, 
and then from the first of the gur five cakes (bheli) 
are set aside for the Five Saints, of whom they reckon 
Baba Farid as one. They are left until the work of 
making gur is completed, after which they are distributed. 
Out of the first of the gur some is passed around also, and 
this is called farldl. Should the saints be neglected, they 
would bring a curse upon the sugar, and there would be 
no profits. 

Gorakh Nath* the famous saint and ascetic and 
worker of miracles, is recognized by the Chamars in some 

1 Crooke, A Rural and Agricultural Glossary for the North- 
Western Provinces and Oudh, p. 94; also, An Introduction to the 
Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India, p. 135. 

8 On Gorakh Nath see Temple, Legends of the Punjab, II., VI., 
XVIII., XXXIV., XXXVIII. and LIL; the article "Kanpatha" in 
Crooke's Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, 
Vol. III. p. 73; Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VI. 
pp. 328 ff. ; Indian Antiquary, Vol. VII. p. 293 ; XXIV. p. 51. 


areas as a saint. He possessed a magic wand, and wooden 
sandals that conferred wonderful powers of locomotion. 
Any person to whom he gave the sandals was able to fly. 
In some legends he is spoken of in connection with Bkim- 
sen, one of the heroes of the Mahabharata. It is related 
that when Bhimsen lay benumbed with cold on the 
snow-covered mountains, Gorakh Nath restored him and 
made him king of 110,000 hills. To these two saints is 
attributed the substitution of buffaloes for human beings 
in sacrifice. Sadhus of this sect, who are called Gorakh 
Nathls, or Gorakh Panthis, or Kanphatas, wear very large 
earrings (mudra), and have a miniature horn or whistle 
(swagi) hung from their necks. This whistle is used in 
worship* and in ceremonies connected with bathing and 
eating. Some of them wear rosaries made of beads of 
stone secured on pilgrimage to Hinlaj, in Baluchistan. 
They practise some revolting forms of austerity (yoga). 
Householders of this panth, some of whom are of low-caste 
origin, are not admitted to holy orders. The great sanctity 
which Gorakh Nath possessed enabled him to do many 
wonderful things. His name is constantly mentioned in 
the legends of Sakhi Sarwdr and of Gugd Plr. This 
circle of legends deserves some consideration because the 
names are widely known. But as one travels to the east 
he hears less and less about Sakhi Sarwar and Guga Pir. 
These legends illustrate what is in the minds of all classes 
of persons in connection with the veneration of saints and 
the pilgrimages to shrines. The shrine of Sakhi Sarwar 
Sultan, 1 at Dehra Ghazi Khan, is a celebrated place. 
Since he is especially benevolent in the granting of sons, 
many village women in the Punjab are his followers. 
In the Delhi territory he has shrines to which 
pilgrimages are made, and where vows are made in 
anticipation of the boons which he is able to grant. 
Attendants as well as pilgrims all sleep on the ground, and 
there are no beds in the adjoining village. He had a 
famous mare, Kakki. 

1 See Temple, Legends of the Punjab, Nos. II., IV., VII., VIII., 


Raja Bdshak, a godling of the under-world, is the king 
of snakes. He is celebrated in the legend of Lona 
Chamari and in those of Guga Pir. Bashak is able to 
appear as a snake or as a man, and he uses snakes as the 
medium of his power ; but he is under the control of 
Guga. Snakes are called Guga's servants. Guga is now, 
in the Punjab, the greatest of snake-kings. It is reported 
that he was found in his cradle sucking a cobra's head. 
The saint Guga Pir, or Zahrd Pir, was born a Hindu ; but 
he afterwards turned Mussulman, in order that he might 
enter the interior of the earth and bring the snake kingdom 
under his control. He is well known in the western 
parts of the Provinces and in the Punjab ; and he has 
shrines far to the east, although he is less known there 
than in the north-west. The legend 1 of Zahra Pir, or 
Guga Pir, is one of the most famous in Northern India. 
He is worshipped to prevent snake-bite and in cases where 
persons have been bitten by poisonous snakes or by 
scorpions. It is good to listen to the story of Guga at night 
during Dewali, since the mention of his name deters 
snakes from entering houses. When vows made to Guga 
are not fulfilled, it is believed that a snake appears in the 
house within twenty-four hours and demands the gifts 
within a certain specified time. Some of his shrines are 
still famous. At one, in Multan, cures are wrought for 
blindness, barrenness and leprosy. There is a special 
festival, known as the Chhari (chhariyd) meld, held 
during the rainy season in honour of Guga Pir, which is 
very popular amongst the low-caste people in the north-west. 
This fair is named after the chhari, or flagstaff, which is 
carried in his name. Among the things necessary for the 
worship of Guga is the " flag," which consists of a bamboo 
twenty or thirty feet in length, surmounted by a circle of 
peacock feathers, and decorated with fans and flags and 

1 See Indian Witness, Feb. 21, 1911 ; Temple, Legends of the 
^ Punjab, Nos. VI. and LII.; Indian Antiquary, 1895, p. 49; 1897, p. 84. 
Crooke, An Introduction to the Popular Religion and Folklore of 
Northern India, p. 133; Oman, Castes, Customs and Superstitions of 
India, p. 67. The Chhari Kd Meld, by the Rev. A. Crosthwaite, in 
The S.P.G. Mission Quarterly Paper (Cawnpore), Jan. 1910. 


cocoanuts done up in cloth. At the fairs men who are 
called " Zahra Fir's horses " carry these "flags." The 
poles are also kept at home by some persons and are used 
in special sacrifices. They are sometimes carried from 
house to house in August and then the owners receive alms. 
The object of the mela is to do special reverence to Guga, 
and to insure thereby immunity from snake-bite. Often at 
the foot of the flagstaff clay images of snakes are offered. 
These are temporary images similar to those used in the Nag 
Panchami ceremonies. Besides the "flag," Guga's whip 
is prominent. This consists of a ring, from which hang 
five iron-chain lashes to which are attached iron discs at 
intervals. Under special circumstances a bhagat lashes 
himself with two of these whips, one in each hand. The 
other instruments of worship are a trident upon which to 
hang the " whip," and a drum shaped like an hour-glass. 
But Guga is worshipped in the hope of securing other boons 
besides immunity from snake-bite. He is a powerful saint 
and so is worshipped in behalf of sickly children, and for 
help in a variety of diseases, and for the removal of the 
curse of barrenness. 

Another saint more local in fame is Gopdl Bdba, who was 
an Aharwar Chamar, a shoemaker for a Raja. He was very 
badly treated by the Raja, who tried to kill him. The 
Chamar finally died from the effects of a nail which was 
driven into his foot. He is now a protective saint, and 
has his shrine under a nim tree in the village. 

Still another saint of this type is Devi Baba, who was 
a Dohar Chamar. His shrine consists of five chambers, 
one for one of his sons, one for another, one for his ser- 
vant, one for Kalka and the central one for himself. An 
interesting thing about this case is that this man went to 
Bengal to learn magic. Upon his return he became 
famous by reason of the great number of evil spirits that 
he was able to bring under his own control. 

A more widely known saint is Hardaul, Harda Lala, or 
Hardour Ldla, now reckoned as a godling of cholera and 
of marriage. He was poisoned on suspicion of unlawful 
relations with his older brother's wife ; but when it was 
discovered that he was innocent he was considered a 


martyr. He is now worshipped at weddings and during 
epidemics. A day or two before a wedding the women 
go to his shrine, worship, and invite him to be present at 
the ceremonies. His image on horseback is found on 
many shrines. 

Still another saint of this type, Dulhd Deo, is the 
deified spirit of a bridegroom killed by lightning during the 
wedding festivities. He receives an offering of flowers in 
February and of a goat at marriage (the women share in 
the meat of this goat). During the wedding festivities he 
is worshipped in the cook-room, and oil and turmeric 
are offered to him. The ceremony is performed by the 
eldest son. 

The less-noted saints are very numerous. 

The next order of saints are those who have risen to 
the vague position of tutelary, or protective, godlings. 
Amongst these may be named Bhimsen and Bhishma, 
heroes of ancient India. Bhimsen is much changed 
from what he was as the famous character of the 
Mahabharata, for he is now but one of the wardens of 
the household or of the village. His fetish is a piece of 
iron in a stone or a tree, or an unshapely stone covered 
with vermilion. With him there is found some pillar 
worship, and his giant strength is attested by some huge 
boulders in Kumaun, where his fingerprints are still 
pointed out. He is worshipped on Tuesday and Saturday, 
and offerings of he-goats, hogs, cocks, and cocoanuts are 
made to him. Bhishma is the childless one. Worship to 
him is performed in the month of February and in 
November-December, when lamps are sent to the houses 
of Brahmans. The housewife sleeps on the ground, on 
a place plastered with cow-dung. Lamps with red wicks 
and fed with sesame oil are kept burning in the house. 
Into each lamp a walnut, a lotus seed, and two copper 
coins are placed. Each evening during the festival the 
women prostrate themselves before the lamps and walk 
around them. They bathe each day before performing 
the ceremony. The bath is taken in the following 
way: Five lamps made of dough are placed, one at the 
entrance to the village, and the other four at cross-roads, 


under a pipal tree, in a temple to iva and at a pond. 
This last-named one is placed on a raft made of the leaves 
of sugar-cane. Grain is placed under each lamp. After 
the lights have gone out, the lampblack from the wicks is 
rubbed on the eyes and fingers of the worshippers, and the 
toe-nails are anointed with the oil that remains. During 
the period of worship one meal a day, consisting of sugar, 
sweet potatoes, ginger and other roots, is served. Flour 
is made from amaranth seed, millet and buckwheat* 
Butter is used, and only milk is drunk. 

Further removed from the realm of sainthood, but 
probably connected with the worship of ghosts, are the 
tutelary godlings like Ganesh and Hanumdn, both of whom 
are worshipped. Here both hero and animal worship are 
combined. Ganesh is the godling of good luck. Hanu- 
man (Maha BIr), the guardian against demoniacal 
influences, is represented by rude images smeared with oil 
and red ocre. He is worshipped also as a cure for barrenness. 
He can assume any form at will. Because of his faithfulness 
to Rama he is the type of all fidelity. 

The next class of godlings is those who are not, on 
the surface, connected with the belief in ghosts. However, 
these also are of human origin, and it is on this basis that 
they can be most easily understood. First, there is the 
preponderance of mother, or sakti, worship. The local 
village demon-mother is universally feared. This phase of 
spirit-worship is connected with^he worship of some form or 
other of Kali, the consort of Siva, and is without doubt 
of aboriginal origin. Sitala Mata, a form of Kali, has 
already been described. Besides her we have Mata Mai 
and Marl Mai, or Man. Kalkd and Dakkani, fairly 
common in some sections of the country, are other forms 
of Kali. In some of her shrines there are three chambers 
and in these glass bracelets are sometimes found. Then 
there are the Jungle Mother and the Birth Mother. This 
latter goddess exercises powers which reside in a blue 
bead, Kailas Maura, which Chamaris carry to insure easy 
delivery in their practice of midwifery. Amon^ other 
" Mothers " are Bhuki Mata, the goddess of famine, and 
the goddesses of the various crops. Hulki Mai is a cholera 


goddess. Fickleness, and proneness to inflict diseases, 
unless propitiated by fealty, offerings and prayers, are all 
contained in this form of belief ; and very many believe that 
Mothers have control over magical powers and over the 
secrets of nature. Dharll Mdtd, or Dhartl Mdl, the sup- 
porter or upholder, is worshipped in the morning, at plowing 
time, at sowing time, and when a cow or a buffalo is bought. 
In the first milking after calving, and always at milking 
time, the first stream is offered to her. When medicine is 
taken a little is poured on the ground to her. With her 
is connected the belief in the sanctity of the earth. 1 With 
ceremonies connected with the worship of this goddess 
women are associated, and in some instances secrecy is 
practised. She also sleeps on the fifth, seventh, ninth, 
eleventh, twenty-first and twenty-fourth, or on the first, 
second, fifth, seventh, tenth, twenty-first and twenty-fourth 
of each month, so these and fifteen days of Kuar are 
sacred to her. On these days no plowing is done. 

Another godling of the same type is Bhumid (some- 
times Bhumid Ram) of the homestead or soil, a protector 
of the fields. As Bhumid Rani she is worshipped with cakes 
and sweetmeats, which are spread upon the ground in the 
sun and then eaten by the worshipper and his family. 2 
Sometimes a shrine is erected to Bhumia when a new 
village is consecrated. His place is a domed roof or a 
platform. After harvest, at weddings, and when male 
children are born, vows have been made to Bhumia. 
Women take their children to his shrines on Sundays. 
Sometimes the first milk of a cow or of a buffalo is 
offered to him and especially after milk has spoiled. 
Young bulls are released in his honour. Seldom does he 
receive animal sacrifices ; his are the fruits of the soil. 
When the crop is sown, a handful of grain is sprinkled 
over a stone, meant for his shrine, in order to protect the 
crop from hail, blight, and wild animals. At harvest-time 
the firstfruits are offered to him that he may protect the 
garnered grain from rats and insects. 

1 See the " magic earth M and similar ceremonies. 
1 See Punjab Notes and Queries, III. 56. 


Bhairorti the terrible, sometimes called Bhairorh of the 
Club, or Bhairorh the Lord, is a form of Siva. He rides 
a black horse, is accompanied by a black dog, and is, in the 
Punjab, a godling of the homestead. He is conciliated 
by feeding a black dog to satiation. He frightens away 
death. As the protector of the fields and of cattle he 
receives offerings of meat and sweets, and at his shrine 
spirits are poured out and drinking is indulged in. When 
one is very ill a vow is made to sacrifice a goat of one 
colour, and without blemish in case of recovery. In 
fulfilling the vow, the goat is taken by all the friends of the 
sick man to the shrine of Bhairorh, under a nim tree, just 
outside the town. Then the animal is beheaded 
with one stroke of a large knife, the head is placed 
before the image of Bhairorh, and a little liquor 
is sprinkled upon it. To the godling they say, " If you are 
pleased, let the goat's head open its mouth. " The 
head always " speaks, " if placed before the image with 
sufficent promptitude. Puris are then offered, after 
which the body of the goat and the cakes are taken by 
the sacrificers to their home to be eaten. The head of the 
goat is given to the gardener attached to the land where 
the shrine is located. At the house a feast is made, or if 
that be not possible, the flesh is divided among the 
friends and they take it to their homes. Bhairorh has 
chelas, or sadhus, called bhopas. When a man obtains a son, 
following a vow to Bhairorh, he dedicates the child to the 
godling for a certain term of years, and places him in the 
charge of a bhopa. Such dedicated persons are called 

Another village goddess, the godling of the village 
boundary, is Chamundd, a form of Kali, one who delights 
in blood. On the outskirts of many villages there is a 
mound with some rude stones upon it to represent her. 

There are several godlings of special interest. Madain* 
the godling of wine, whom some call a demon, is greatly 
feared by the Chamars in the eastern parts of the 
Provinces and in Bihar. In Shahabad, for example, 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1891, pp. 220, 221. 


Madam is the most serious form of oath taken amongst 
the Chamars, and a form of oath very rarely used, and 
then only when both parties involved are Chamars. They 
believe that whosoever swears falsely on this godling will 
suffer most severely. In the panchayats, when one man 
challenges another's testimony, he frequently calls upon 
him to swear by Madain, Sometimes, through fear, 
men, when so challenged, withdraw their testimony. 
The challenger has always to furnish the liquor, which 
his adversary then pours on the ground. The members 
of the panchayat are treated to drink by the challenger. 
If sickness or calamity follow, either to the man or to his 
family, it is attributed to his having sworn falsely. 
Chamars of Oudh hold him in great fear, but are ashamed 
to acknowledge him. 

Saliya, 1 a special god of the Chamars, is worshipped 
with offerings of small pigs. Similar offerings are made 
to Jakkaiyd in fulfilment of vows when children are born. 
The pig is sacrificed by a sweeper, who marks the child's 
forehead with the blood. 

Kale Gore Deo y 2 the black and white godlings, are 
worshipped daily by many Chamars, and by many other 
low-caste people. They are supposed to reside in a 
corner of the house where a pice has been buried, and 
are worshipped with offerings of food and drink. Their 
worshippers numbered, in 1891, about 750,000. Their 
origin is connected in some way with Kali Singh and 
Guga Pir, or with the two Mohammadan saints Kalu 
and Gori, said to be buried in the Partabgarh District. 

Another localized divinity, Purbi Deota (the Godling of 
the East Country), is worshipped at home. Once a year 
a pig, together with four yards of cloth, two loin-cloths, 
one nutmeg, four cloves and rice are offered to him. On 
the following day the worshippers bathe, after which they 
make an offering of bread and give a feast in which the 
flesh of the pig is cooked and eaten. 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1891, pp. 220, 221. 
* Census Report, United Provinces, 1891, p. 220. 


THE Chamar attributes most events to spirit agencies, 
and, since he is always on the alert to outwit and to defeat 
these unseen powers, he is also always watching for signs 
that will indicate what is likely to happen, and he always 
plans to do things under the most favourable conditions. 
The whole field of luck and ill-luck and of omens is 
undoubtedly related to the belief in ghosts. 

Like other folks the world over, the Chamar has his 
lucky and unlucky days. New clothes must not be put 
on on a Wednesday. To lend, or to borrow, on Saturday, 
Sunday or Tuesday is unlucky ; and it is not wise to 
return from a journey on these days. Horses or cattle, 
or anything pertaining to them, such as leather, ghi or 
cow-dung, should not be bought or sold on Saturday or 
Sunday ; and, if cattle should die on one of these days, 
they should be buried. The year's plowing should be 
begun on a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday or a 
Friday, or on the first or the eleventh of the month, and 
reaping should be begun on a Thursday and finished on a 
Wednesday. Cattle should rest on the 15th or the 30th 
of the month. The pressing of the sugar-cane should not 
be begun on Saturday or Wednesday. 

Dis-d-sul is the demon of the four quarters. He lives 
in the east on Monday and Saturday, in the north on 
Tuesday and Wednesday, in the west on Friday and Sun- 
day, in the south on Thursday. So it is not good to plow 
in those directions on these days. The south is unlucky 
and the cooking-floor should not face that way, neither 
should a person lie with his feet to the south. 


Three and thirteen are unlucky numbers, and these 
days after death are very inauspicious. Odd numbers are 
generally lucky. Five and multiples of five, and compound 
numbers like four and a quarter, two and a half, and seven 
and a half, are lucky. 

When one is starting on a journey, it is inauspicious 
to see a jackal cross the road from the right, a crow on a 
dead tree, or a dog shake his head so as to flap his ears. 
Under such circumstances a man should return home 
at once. The same precaution should be taken if a 
person hear an ass braying, or anyone sneeze near by, or 
if he should meet a washerman, an oilman, an eunuch, a 
widow, a water-carrier with an empty pitcher, a man suffer- 
ing from disease or infirmity, a one-eyed man, or a man 
riding a buffalo. It is inauspicious if a brick drop out of the 
doorway, or if a cat is seen catching a rat, just as a person 
starts on an errand. 

On the other hand, it is auspicious to meet a revenue 
collector (lambarddr), a Brahman with his books, a man 
carrying a light, a sweeper with his basket full, a water- 
carrier with his pitcher full (one ought to drop a pice into 
it), or a woman carrying a male child. It is good to have 
a jackal cross your path from the left, to hear an ass bray- 
ing on the left, or to meet a snake (it should be passed to 
the left and be greeted with " Salaam 1 "), or a loaded 
donkey (if he be loaded with clothes, but if loaded with 
bricks, unlucky), or to see a calf sucking its mother. 

The following are good omens : To hear a jackal howl- 
ing at night ; to hear an owl hooting at night ; to hear a 
partridge calling at night ; to hear the voice of a koel in 
the morning; to see a monkey the first thing in the morning 
(but do not say " Bandar " before you eat) ; to meet the 
mantis (he should always be saluted when seen); to 
meet one carrying two full pots (doghar) one above the 
other (they should be left to the right); to see in the 
morning a crow or a black buck. A man on horseback 
riding into a sugar-cane field during sowing brings good 

The following are ill omens: To see a pair of 
jackals in the morning ; to meet a one-eyed oilman (very 


unlucky ; unless he laughs he should be beaten) ; to see a 
cat crossing the road in the morning ; to look on a barren 
woman the first thing in the morning ; to see a dog flap- 
ping his ears or shaking his head when work is in pro- 
gress ; to sit in or to sneeze into a winnowing-fan ; and to 
have a kite settle on your house. 

To see a cat or a crow throwing water on itself is a 
good omen. If a dog howl three distinct times at night a 
robbery is about to be committed, or trouble is imminent, 
or someone in the village will die. It is a bad sign for a 
dog with a bone in his mouth to come straight 
at a person. An owl hooting at night in a grave- 
yard foretells death to the passer-by who hears it. 
Howling dogs portend evil because they are able to 
see evil spirits. If a spider falls upon a person it means 
that he will soon get new clothes, but the touch of a 
lizard is unfortunate. The owl, the kite and the cat 
are objects of dread, and the two former are bird-fiends 
of the lying-in room and of childhood. Up to the time 
of the performance of the chhatthi, the parents will not dry 
the child's clothes out of doors ; and it is a very ill omen 
indeed if an owl, a kite, or a cat come into the birth- 
chamber. If, during the day, they put a child on a bed 
out of doors, they cover it with a sheet, and lay over this 
a piece of grass lengthwise of the body, that the shadow 
of a passing kite may not fall upon the child and cause 
what is known as chllwds. If a man reach a village at 
dusk, or after nightfall, and hear a woman crying, he 
must go back home at once, or at least go as far as 
another village to rest for the night and then go home ; 
or, he may sit down and smoke and go on. If a newly 
purchased horse, on seeing his owner, shakes his head, 
the bargain should be broken off ; but if he paws, it is 
a good sign. A one-eyed man coming to a party stops the 
merriment (he should be driven away). Persons with 
defective eyes are constitutionally vicious and cunning 
(chaldk) and they should be avoided. A person who 
dreams himself dead will live long ; but one who 
dreams that he is well dressed, or that he is going out, 
will die soon. The itching of the right palm signifies 


wealth ; of the left, indicates that money will be paid out. 
The twitching of the upper right eyelid signifies good ; of 
the left, ill. The indications in the twitching of the lower 
lids are the reverse of the above. The twitching of the left 
eyelid of a woman signifies joy. Sneezing is lucky, and 
as a man cannot die for some time afterwards, he should 
be congratulated. 

Another mystery is that which is included under the 
general term of evil eye, or fascination (nazar) . It is 
believed that there results from the look or glance of 
many persons, and it is by no means certain by how 
many, sickness, wasting diseases in children, death, mis- 
fortune, loss, calamity and diabolical influences generally. 
Such glances affect individuals, cattle, crops, food, 
houses and almost every other thing of value, including 
building enterprises and handwork. The real root of the 
matter is in covetousness. Any especially beautiful or per- 
fect person, animal, or object is subject to fascination, and 
the influence is due to a desire on the part of some person 
or spirit for the particular thing or quality found in the 
object, but which is lacking in the spirit or person exercising 
the influence. One-eyed persons, those born during the 
Solono 1 festival, black-tongued individuals 2 , persons who 
have had no children or whose children have died, and 
those who have eaten ordure in childhood have the power 
of fascination. On the other hand, evil-looking and 
deformed persons (as those born with double thumbs or 
fingers or toes, the blind, and the lame), bald persons, 
those born during the Solono festival, and those who 
have eaten ordure or cow-dung are not subject to 
the influence of the evil eye. Likewise defective 
or spotted or imperfect things are not subject to this 

1 The Solono, held in August, is connected with the worship of 
Raja Bash a k. It is not a mela but a domestic festival. It is at this 
time that vermicelli is made and offered with ghi in the home-fire. 
There is a feast at this time. Only those who worship Raja Bashak 
make the vermicelli, and it is made but once a year. 

a Black-tongued individuals seem to be those with pigmented 
tongues, those whose abuse and prophesies always come true. 


Fascination is a potent power, and since no one ever 
knows just who many exercise this power, it behoves 
most people to do everything in their power to avoid it. 
The power is exercised through a person's eyes. The 
explanation is that evil spirits are always on the look-out 
for opportunities to exercise their untoward powers, and 
that they often take their cue from the way in which 
people look at persons or things. The belief, then, is 
explained by reference to the world of unseen spirits. 
So, nearly, if not quite all, of the devices which are 
effective in scaring ghosts are potent in this field also. 
Such means as are used have for their purpose the 
catching of, or the diverting of, the evil glance "before it 
actually rests upon the object for which protection is 
sought. Movable property is marked with black spots ; 
charcoal is placed in the basket of food that is sent to the 
field ; an earthen pot is blackened and placed in the thatch, 
or carelessly left in the courtyard, or hung on a pole in 
the field ; and sometimes bits of blackened rags are stuck 
into the mud-wall while it is in process of construction. 
Blemishes are left in things of value, and other devices 
are used to elicit the feeling of disappointment or of 
disgust in the minds of those who might otherwise look 
upon them with favour or satisfaction. So, a bit of food 
that has been bitten into is sometimes put into the 
basket of provisions that is sent to the field; and the head 
of an animal is set on a stick in the crops. Houses 
are protected by putting an old shoe, heel upwards, in the 
thatch ; by driving nails into the doorposts and the 
threshold, and by fastening horseshoes in the threshold ; 
by hanging up a baya's nest (Indian weaver-bird) ; by 
fastening a hedgehog's skin or porcupine's quills in the 
doorway ; by making marks of various kinds on house- 
walls ; by drawing a picture of a churel in a conspicuous 
place, especially on a good house ; and by throwing 
mustard-seeds into the fire. Horses and ponies are 
protected by beads hung around their necks and by leather 
covered with gold leaf, shaped as a single or a double 
triangle. Grooms- often weave into the horse's tail a 
dashing-coloured string or rag, often with a kauri and 









two triangles of broad cloth, one red and the other black, 
fastened into it ; and sometimes blue-black threads are 
tied around the fetlocks. Often, when a horse is eating, 
a duster is thrown over his withers. Cattle are often 
protected by a bit of turtle-shell or skull and an iron ring 
tied around the neck with catgut. Kauriarh and blue 
beads are used in the same way. A blue rag is made into 
knots and is then hung around the animal's neck. Some- 
times such articles are tied around the base of the horns. 

The greatest care is exercised to protect children. 
Since a glance which results in complete satisfaction to 
the one who casts it is the serious thing, efforts are made 
to create disgust by making ugly and repulsive objects 
most conspicious on attractive persons. Black, as the 
colour of mourning, is not attractive, so it is used. Lamp- 
black is rubbed on the eyelids and the forehead ; the face 
and the teeth are blackened. Sometimes a child is dressed 
in filthy clothes, or is left unwashed for years, or oppro- 
brious names are used, to create the attitude of disgust. 
Thus a mother who has lost a child by smallpox will 
name her next child Kuriyd (he of the dunghill). 
Again, the mother will attempt to save her child from 
evil glances by giving him a name that will indicate 
that he is of very little value. So children receive 
such names as Paiich Kauri (worth but five shells), 
ahd Marhgta (begged, a mere gift). Further, names of 
devil-scarers are given to children, and those include the 
names of godlings and saints. Deceit is practised by 
dressing a boy as a girl, for thus the evil glance is robbed of 
its power. 

Some devices to counteract the apparent effects of the 
evil eye are interesting. Most infantile troubles are 
attributed to the evil eye. If a baby (or a calf) is restless 
and will not take its food, relief is obtained by grinding 
three red chillis and waving them over the sufferer three 
times, and by then throwing the offering into the fire. 
Another effective remedy for infantile troubles is the 
following: Take bran, powdered chillis, salt, mustard and 
the eyelashes of the child ; wave them seven times around the 
child and throw the whole collection into the fire. The 



bad smell that arises signifies relief. To protect a child 
who has been carried on a visit to another village, seven 
little stones should be waved each seven times around the 
child's head and thrown in seven directions before the 
child is brought into its own home. 

Many devices, such as jewels, glass beads (especially 
blue ones), mirrors, and other bright objects, amulets, 
charms, flowers, and turtle-shells are worn. Blue tattoo 
marks, especially between the eyes or over the eyebrows, 
are effective protectors ; and ear and nose borings are 
resorted to, and, in case of a long-wished-for son, these 
are made soon after he is born. 

Instances like the following illustrate how prominent 
the belief in fascination is: A Chamar woman, whose 
child was stillborn, thinking that her misfortune was due 
to the influence of the evil eye, wrapped up a piece of 
cloth, used at her confinement, with two leaves of betel, 
some cloves and a piece of castor-oil plant, and threw it 
down a well. This was done, probably, under the advice 
of a wizard. Similar articles are sometimes buried at 

The use of lampblack by women is gracious, since the* 
one who puts it on her eyes cannot cast the evil eye. 

Regular charms against the evil eye, called the nazar 
bantd, may be bought in the bazaars. 

The description of the means employed to avert the evil 
eye could be much extended, but a reference to the 
enumerations under the topic of devil-scarers will suffice. 

The cult of the mysterious occupies a large place with 
the Chamar. Magic, which has the spirit-world for its 
background, has to do with the control of life and 
destiny. The primitive man makes no clear connection 
between cause and effect, but associates together all 
sorts of things which to the modern man are unrelated. 
And, since the cult of magic grows out of confused 
notions regarding the cause and sequence of phenomena, 
primitive peoples seek to accomplish ends by means that 
civilization recognizes at wholly inadequate. There can 
be no successful art of witchcraft, however, until the 
possible are distinguished from the impossible means, that 


is, until the magician has a clearer notion of which 
sequences are possible than his clients have. Magic may 
be directed to public or to private ends. It is collective 
and ceremonial as well as individual and secret. The 
former is usually for the public weal, and is socially 
approved ; the latter is almost always for nefarious ends, 
and is more often tabu. It is witchcraft. " The occult is 
marked by divergence in trend and belief from the recog- 
nized standards and achievements of human thought." 1 
Magic may be classified as sympathetic and imitative. The 
latter, which is also called symbolic magic, is based upon 
real or supposed resemblances between things. The former 
is based upon material connection between objects, and 
proceeds upon the conviction that, whatever is done to 
any part or possession of a man, is done to him. Probably 
four-fifths of mankind believe in sympathetic magic. 

Magic, in all its primary elements, iVfound in the practices 
and beliefs of the Chamar, who, in the nefarious branches 
of magic, commonly called the black art, bears an unsavory 
reputation. In the following pages private and public 
magic will be discussed in turn, taking first the sympa- 
thetic and then the symbolic phases of each branch of 
the subject. 

There is, first of all, the belief that objects which have 
once been in contact with each other are still effectively 
related, even though they may be separated, and that, 
whatever may be done to one of the objects, similarly 
affects the other. Thus, control may be obtained over 
a person by getting possession of his nail-parings, his hair, 
his blood, his saliva, or something connected with him. 2 
For this reason the cord and placenta are disposed of 
so carefully after parturition. Another illustration is that 
where a Chamar woman, who had lost her children one 
byone in infancy, came secretly to the healthy children 
of a Christian and nursed them, that her weakness might 
be transferred to them, and that she might get possession of 
the power that would result in healthy children. Another 

1 Jastrow, Fact and Fable in Psychology, p. 3. 

1 Such practices are almost always under the direction of a magician. 


Chamari, whose children were all girls and who was 
anxious for a son, took some of the blood of her confine- 
ment and sprinkled it upon the clothes of a boy. In this 
connection other examples of magic which has for its 
purpose the obtaining of offspring may be noticed. 
A childless woman will surreptitiously cut a corner from 
the chadar of a mother who has a large family ; or she 
will steal the clothes of a child belonging to a large 
family. For the same end little children are sometimes 
fed by barren women. Another illustration of sympathetic 
magic is that where the pipal tree is worshipped with the 
hope of obtaining offspring. Cotton thread, made by a 
virgin, is taken by a barren woman to a pipal tree. There 
she offers batasas, water and flowers, and then walks 
around the tree seven times, winding the thread about the 
tree as she goes. The offerings, together with the thread 
that remains, are then left at the foot of the tree. The 
woman then prays, and makes a vow that if children are 
given to her she will hang a flag in the top of the tree. 
In this ceremony material connection is secured with an 
object (the tree) which is full of vitality. The use of 
mango-leaves, betel-nuts, walnuts, almonds, cocoanuts, 
and plantains in ceremonies related to fertility is because 
these are all products of fruitful trees. Monkeys, ants, 
the black buck, and the peacock are worshipped, probably 
because they are so prolific. Rags of clothing are tied on 
trees, nails are driven into trees, and pins are thrown into 
wells, in order to get into ceremonial connection with the 
spirits identified with these respective objects, and thus to 
be assured of the benefits which they are able to bestow. 
When an elephant passes through a village, its footprints 
are touched, especially by children, in order that they may 
secure the benefits of its great strength, and elephant 
haits are worn that a person may be able to overcome the 
power of fascination. 

Various things are eaten with definite purposes in view. 
Crow's tongue is given to children to insure long life or 
to help them to talk. A weak child, or one subject to 
pneumonia, is given small bits of tiger's flesh to eat. The 
heart and liver of the Indian badger are eaten to scare away 


demons, because the animal digs into graves and feeds 
upon the dead. The eyes of an owl are eaten for the 
gift of wisdom and that a person may be able to see in the 
dark. 1 

In carrying out the same practice of sympathetic magic 
certain things are worn. Amongst these may be men- 
tioned the flesh of the tiger (and that of the leopard and 
panther), the claws of the badger, the horn of the jackal, 
bear's hairs, and those taken from a horse's tail. Besides 
these the long betel-nut is used ; and articles such as 
shells, turtle bone, boar's tusks and teeth, snake bones, 
the leather of an old shoe, turquoise and knotted threads 
are worn, and rings made of a combination of metals are 
used. In many instances some of these articles form 
part of the contents of a charm or amulet. Immedi- 
ately after birth, parents often hang about the neck of 
their child an amulet, containing, amongst other things, 
tiger's whiskers. In amulets many articles used as devil- 
scarers may be found. Another class of objects which are 
considered as possessing powers in themselves, and as con- 
ferring good luck upon their possessers, are called talismans. 
Both the amulet and the talisman may be combined in a 
charm. Bags made of leather or of black cloth, or small 
cases of metal (silver, copper or brass) are hung around 
the neck or fastened on the arm. In them are found an 
odd variety of articles chosen because of their magical 
significance, and there may be besides, in the charm, a bit 
of paper upon which is drawn a square representing a 
small seat with the figure of some godling, as Hanuman ; 
or, upon the paper may be written some mantra ; or some 
mystic or some clear symbol or impression may be 
drawn upon the paper. The cases and bags are usually of 
some simple geometric shape. A characteristic amulet 
contains pictures of the godlings Mahabir and Bajrang, a 
bit of paper with a mantra written upon it, two and a 
half grains of rice, two and a half grains of urd, two and 
a half grains of barley, two and a half cloves, and a 
bit of a parasite (amar bel). (Some say that Chamars 

1 See under folk remedies. 


who eat beef may not wear such amulets.) Pouches 
made of leather and consisting of two parts, in which 
are put chillis, mustard seed, salt, husks of barley, charcoal 
and haldi, are hung around the necks of cattle to 
protect them from the evil eye. An interesting charm is 
that which the second wife wears about her neck, a little 
metal amulet upon which is scratched a representation of 
the first wife. This is called the Saut Sal, or Saukan 
Maura. All the marriage presents made to the second 
wife must be offered first to this charm. When she puts 
on fresh clothes or jewelry, she touches them first with 
the image as a sign they have been offered to the spirit of 
her predecessor. If this is not done, it is believed that the 
offended spirit of the first wife will bring disease or death. 
If the second wife, or the husband, die soon after the 
marriage, the, death is attributed to the first wife, who has 
not been suitably propitiated. 

The use of magic for nefarious or ulterior ends, both 
in the making of love-charms and in working injury to 
others, is common. In almost all cases these devices are 
used under the advice and with the help of a witch or 
wizard. Since owl's flesh makes a person a fool, wives 
often give it to their husbands, in order that flirtations 
with other men may be carried on without arousing 
suspicion. Charms are repeated over mustard seeds, which 
are then placed in the path where the person towards 
whom the incantation is directed" will walk. If he step 
over the seeds he will be sure to be under the spell of the 
one who employed the wizard. Thread is often used 
instead of mustard seed. At other times a knotted thread 
or the charm is buried at the door of the person to be 
brought under the love-spell. If he or she step over the 
buried object the charm will be successful. Occasionally 
the person who wishes to bring another under his power 
wears a specially prepared charm on his arm. 

The following procedure is a good illustration of the 
use of symbolic magic : At night a person goes to the 
Ganges, strips off his clothes, and proceeds to cook rice in a 
skull. While the rice is being prepared evil spirits gather 
about it ; consequently a good deal of courage is required on 


the part of the one who is carrying out the magic rites. He 
must refuse to listen to noises or to be frightened. When 
the rice is done, he must go with a rush and throw it 
against a tree. The rice which adheres to the tree and 
that which falls to the ground are collected separately. 
The rice which stuck to the tree becomes a potent love- 
charm upon anyone to whom it may be given to eat (of 
course, secretly). That which fell upon the ground may 
be used to break the charm, or as a means of working evil 
upon the one to whom it is given. 

A darker chapter is opened when we come to the 
magic which is used for injurious or destructive purposes. 
No doubt, before the strict hand of the present Govern- 
ment was laid upon violent actions, magic had some 
gruesome tales to tell. There is now no trace of the 
old custom (symbolic magic) according to which a barren 
woman, or one who had lost a child, caused the child of 
someone else to be murdered, bathed in its blood, or 
drank it, that she might bring the spirit of the murdered 
child into her own womb. Envious women will take 
ashes from the burning-ghat and cast them over children, 
believing that the children will waste away under the spell 
of Masani. Thieves throw such ashes over houses, to 
cause the inmates to sleep soundly during the burglary. 
Injury is done to a man by doing to his shadow what the 
person wishes to do to the man himself. In order to kill 
an enemy, a man will divide a pumpkin, a cucumber, or a 
lemon, believing that the enemy will thus be made to 
suffer. Of course, these devices are carried out by means 
of spells and incantations and through the agency of spirits 
under a wizard's control. Another nefarious practice is to 
place a goat's head and liver and a knife in an earthen pot, 
pronounce a formula over it, and send it to an enemy's 
house. When the pot falls upon'the roof blood will gush 
from the mouth of the victim and he will die. By means 
of charms, an earthen pot (hdthdi), in which certain things 
and a lamp are placed, is sent to a man who is to be 
murdered. The pot flies through the air, falls upon the 
place where the victim is, and kills him. Care must be 
taken, before the pot is set in motion, that a sacrifice 


be offered for each stream that must be passed over, 
otherwise the pot will fall into one of the streams 
and the magic will fail. Some make an image of the 
enemy out of flour and place it with a four-wicked lamp 
on a tray. Before this a fire-sacrifice is performed and 
vows are made. Still others drive knives or needles into 
an image, and cast it into a tank or a stream or bury it. 
And some cut the throat of an image or put out its eyes. 
All of these devices are for ulterior ends. Sometimes a 
disease-godling is sent to prostrate an enemy with dysentery 
or some other serious malady. For example, a Chamar 
was sleeping in his bed which was set up over the crops 
in a field. In the night he saw Bhawani (a woman, a 
devi) coming towards him. The man took her to be his 
master's wife, so he stood up, saluted her, and asked her 
why she had come. She did not make answer, and the 
man got frightened. When he started to get down she 
seized him by his private parts and injured him very 
seriously. A wizard was called in, who brought the man 
around by means of magic. The goddess had been sent 
by an enemy. In curing the disease the wise man used 
the following charm addressed to Mari : "I call upon the 
name of Mari. O Mari, be thou my deliverer. The 
dead of yesterday, fallen into the depths, Mari goes to 
unearth. May the birds (e.g. Birs) of the different 
countries be enchanted, but the wells be unaffected by 
magic (e.g., May the women as they come to the wells 
be brought under the spell, but not the wells). May 
those who sit in order (e.g. in the feast or in the festival) 
be brought under the spell. May thine eyes be brought 
under the power (of my) enchantment. Let me see thy 
magic power and the strength of thy spells (e.g., O Mari, 
exert thy powers in my behalf)." 1 

To bring death upon a person, a man will give an owl 
liquor to drink, and for forty consecutive nights will pro- 

1 Marl, marl malni Karuih, Marl hoe sahdl. 
Bdsl murdd gau pdtdl, Marl ukhdran jae. 
Des des ki chirya phartise kudth na phariise. 
Panghat pharhse, phamse tere naina. 
Dekhum teri sakat, tere mantar ki sakat. 


nounce his enemy's name to the bird. If the owl has 
been kept so carefully that it has heard no other name 
during the whole period, the magic will be successful. 
The 'name is an integral part of a person, and, therefore, 
to know a man's name is often to put him into a wizard's 
power. In such cases the magic is performed " upon the 
name " of an enemy. The spirit or godling by whom the 
spell is being cast must not speak to anyone while on its 
mission. To escape the danger of the black art, children 
frequently receive two names, one of which is kept secret. 

Besides the belief in the power of magic spells, pass- 
words, and names uttered by the authorized persons in 
the prescribed manner, there is a magical significance 
given to certain tabus. The wife may not use her 
husband's name, nor the name of her father-in-law 
(often), nor that of her mother-in-law. The wife of a 
younger brother may not use the names of her husband's 
older brothers, nor touch them, nor speak nor appear 
before them unveiled. But conditions are such that it is 
impossible strictly to observe these rules regarding the use 
of the chadar. Some persons may have neither doors nor 
door-casings. To erect these would mean a death in the 
family. To avoid this calamity, if they desire a door 
they build it while the dead body of an old man lies in the 
house. Certain foods are tabu on penalty of snake-bite ; 
and the wizard may forbid certain foods to certain persons. 
Some may not wear black bracelets. Others may not 
sow pumpkin or gourd seeds ; still others may not 
eat washed dal. Some must live in chappars (a thatched- 
roofhut); others will neither make rope not string charpais 
in the month of July. (This tabu is evidently connected 
with the prevention of snake-bite.) 

Public magic is mostly communal and for ends accept- 
able to the community. It is largely of the symbolic or 
imitative type, although there are some elements of 
sympathetic magic involved. Rain is essential to the 
securing of the harvest, and two sorts of devices are 
employed to secure rain. One is directed against the 
magic of the Banias, who try to prevent rain ; and the 
other aims to secure rain. When clouds are overhead, 


Banias and shopkeepers fill their lamp-saucers (chirags) 
with liquid ghi. Ghi is one of the products of the cow, 
and so tends to scare away the storm-demons. 

To bring rain a plow is hung in a well. Sometimes 
a chapati and a new earthen pot filled with water are 
placed upon five clods in a field. If the water in the pot 
causes the bread to mould, rain will fall. Rice and 
sugar are placed where four roads meet, and sometimes 
the road-crossing is defiled. A number of women take 
a four-year-old girl into a courtyard of a mahalla ; there 
the women sing, dress her in new clothes, and ask, " Will 
it rain?" She answers, " Yes"; and they ask, "When?" 
Ten or twelve boys go from house to house, lie in mud 
and repeat the verse: "The time for rain has come; let 
the rain fall." As they go they take up a collection, with 
which ghi, sugar, flour and vegetables are purchased and 
cooked near a tank. The food is offered to Brahmans, to 
the cow and to Indra, and then eaten. An elaboration 
of this device is as follows : 

When the rains are delayed an interesting ceremony 
is performed. The faces of ten or twelve boys in the 
village, or mahalla, are blackened. Every boy takes a 
stick in each hand, and then visits every home in the 
place. At each house they call for water, which they 
throw on the ground, and then they proceed to wallow in 
it. They beg also, and, as they go from place to place, 
they strike their sticks together, crying : 

" Heavy showers will fall in front of your house : 
It will rain ; the goddess will send rain ; 
The paddy shall be sown ; 

The old men shall drink the water of the boiled rice, 
And the young men shall have rice to eat." 

Of the proceeds of the begging, grain and flour, the 
former is ground and then mixed with the latter. The 
boys then repair to a tank, or a river-bank, where a space 
is cleared and a fire lighted. The fire is removed, and 
dhak-leaves all spread, upon which the cakes made from 
the flour are laid. The cakes are then covered with dhak- 
leaves, and fire is laid over the whole, and the cakes 
are well baked. They are then offered to Indra and eaten. 


In this we have the imitation of the black rainclouds, and 
the fiction of floods of water combined with the worship 
of Indra, the thunderer, who defeats the demons and 
liberates the water. This is a dramatization of the storm. 
A person should not rush out of the house bareheaded 
during a shower, unless he wishes the rain to cease. 
Rain may be driven off by the following device : Take a 
pint and a quarter of rainwater, put it into an earthen 
pitcher (ghara) and bury it in the ground at a spot where 
a roof-spout discharges. 1 

To prevent a hailstorm a tawa or a sieve (sup) is 
pounded with a bamboo. In this we have the use of 
powerful means to frighten away devils. The demon is 
opposed by iron, by black colour and by noise, or by the 
sieve-fetish. Probably the sound satisfies him that hail 
has already fallen. Sometimes over urd ki dal a magician 
repeats mantras and then throws it on the hailstones. In 
this way the storm is confined to a single field. The 
village recompenses the owner of the field. 

There are numerous practices connected with sowing, 
seedtime and harvest. During the sowing of bdjrd 
(a species of millet : it is par excellence the "food" of the 
poorer classes) or jawar a request for fire should not be 
granted, for, if coal is given, the blades will be eaten by 
worms and so will turn black as soon as they spring up. 
At the sowing of the sugar-cane, the person who proposes 
to sow calls his labourers, or friends who are going to help 
him, saying, "Come, I am going to sow sugar-cane." 
Choosing a boy who has not been married, and whom they 
call "the bridegroom," they dress him in fine clothes and set 
him on the boundary of the field. No one would enter the 
field with his shoes on. They take one cake of gur with 
them, which they offer in the name of Bhimsen. They rub 
some on the plow, and the remainder they distribute 
amongst themselves. Bhimsen, thus propitiated, is sure 
to protect their crops. They then begin to sow. A boy 
is chosen to follow the sower and cast any stray joints 
into the furrow* He is called " the crow." The sower 

1 Punjab Notes and Queries , III. p? 115. 


dare not look back. While this ceremony is being carried 
out in the field, the women at home are preparing a special 
dinner. When the food is ready, they draw marks on 
each side of the door with cow-dung, to imitate a tall, 
abundant harvest, and then take the dinner to the field 
for the workers. For the feast of the sugar-cane planting 
only such foods are cooked as will properly mix, for 
example, khir and karhi. A dinner of khichri would be 
inauspicious, for the dal and rice remain separate, 
and the sugar-cane would come up scattering, and the 
harvest would be light. Before the sowing of wheat five 
small earthen pots are filled with the grain, placed upon 
the ground and trodden down. Sometimes men throw 
a little grain in the direction of the Ganges, or they bury 
a fistful of grain in each of five places on one side of the 
field. Before each of these places five men face the 
Ganges. After the sowing is completed a feast is held 
and a fire-sacrifice is offered before a plow. The owner 
of the field must not be hungry at the time of the sowing; 
he must do his sowing after a full meal. To get rid of 
weeds that are persistent, bury in the field the placenta 
from the first calving of a cow. 

Before the cutting of the grain, offerings of firstfruits 
are made to various godlings. Bhairorh receives such 
offerings at the Holi in the house-worship. Sometimes 
a little grain is left standing in the harvest-field. After a 
short rest the reapers attack this last bit, tear it up and 
throw it into the air amidst shouts of victory to their 
local godlings. Sometimes this last bit of standing grain 
is left uncut for the spirit of the field. At other times 
it is attacked by women, cut, mixed with other grains, 
taken home and boiled. This preparation is then passed 
around and eaten. Often some cash from the first sales 
of the grain are brought by the Chamar to the landlord, 
and it is believed that the Chamar brings luck with the 

At the beginning of the sugar-cane harvest what is 
known as the Gayds is celebrated. The harvesters, going 
into the fields, bind a few stalks of the cane together at 
the top. On the ground, beneath the knot, a small pot 


is placed. This vessel is quickly filled with water, that 
the vat beneath the cane-press may be abundantly filled 
with sap. A fire-sacrifice is then performed, and the 
workmen go around the field one, three or five times. 
After this they break off and bring home some of the 
sugar-cane. These first stalks are offered on an altar, 
called makhas, or they are placed on a cot together with an 
axe, a shovel and a sickle, and over these a piece of new 
cloth is thrown. A fire-sacrifice follows. Then women 
come and sing the praises of the godlings. The cane is 
then cut into pieces and distributed. The first stalks are 
cut by the man who is to collect the juice for boiling. 
While the ceremonies are going on in the fields the women 
at home are busy cooking rice and urd for a feast. On the 
walls of the house a figure is drawn, and a fire is lighted, 
and a basket is waved over it, while the worshippers repeat : 
" Uth N dray an, baith N dray an ; chat chhane ke khet 
men mairh kdtum ; tu chhet Ndrdyan." Some of the 
food is then eaten and some is distributed to beggars and 
friends. The few stalks that were bound together at the 
beginning of the harvest will not be cut until all the rest 
of the field has been harvested. At other times the first 
few stalks that are cut are taken home and crushed, and 
some of the juice is offered to Chamunda, some is poured 
out on the ground, and then the remainder is boiled down. 
The gur thus made is distributed amongst the men, and 
some is given to their sisters and daughters. 

At the beginning of the cotton harvest, an especially 
large stalk is chosen, and balls of cotton are fastened to it. 
When women begin to pick the cotton, they go round 
the field eating milk-rice, the first mouthful of which they 
spit out on the field towards the west. The first that is 
picked is exchanged at the village shop for its weight in 
salt, which is prayed over and then kept in the house until 
the picking is over. 1 At other times a fire-sacrifice is 
performed in the middle of the field, and women eat rice 
there. When they come home they throw a little of th 
cotton on the thatch. 

1 Report, Census of Punjab, 1881, p. 119, 


The threshing and measuring of the grain is important. 
The men go to the threshing-floor carrying articles for 
worship such as milk, ghi, turmeric, boiled wheat and a 
variety of grains. The threshing-stake is washed. Boiled 
wheat is scattered about in the hope that the bhut will be 
contentwith that, and that he will not require any of the new 
grain. Before winnowing the grain, two double handfuls 
are taken out and one is given to a Brahman, the other to 
Bhairom. This is done to keep away demons. Then five 
baskets of the threshed wheat are winnowed, and the chaff 
and the wheat are measured separately. If the baskets 
turn out full, or if there is an excess, it is considered 
auspicious. If the measure be short, another place is chosen 
for the winnowing. The winnowing follows. Then the 
grain is heaped up in one place and a khurpa, a broom, 
dub-grass, and cow-dung are brought for a ceremony, and 
an incantation is repeated. When the winnowed grain 
is heaped upon the threshing-floor an incantation is pro- 
nounced : 

" Lord God of the corn-heap, give a hundred blessings. 
Corn-God and Lord, multiply a thousandfold. 
God, give us prosperity in our affairs." * 

Every night the grain that has been winnowed during 
the day is measured, the company keeping perfectly quiet. 
The number of baskets is recorded by knots or by grains. 
Spirits steal the grain that is not measured. The first 
scale-pan of grain is taken home, and part of it is given to 
Brahmans and gurus, and the remainder is made into bread 
and distributed along with sugar. 

In the grain-bin, which has a hole in the side near the 
bottom for taking out the grain, a sun symbol, for protec- 
tion, consisting of a circle with covered radii, is sometimes 

Another illustration of public magic may be added in 
conclusion. When a well is to be dug, little bowls of 
water are set out around the proposed site on a Saturday 
night. The one which dries up last marks the exact spot 
where the, well should be dug. They begin to dig leaving 

1 Punjab Notes and Queries , Vol. I. p. 40, 


the bowl intact, and the clod on which it rests is the last 
to be removed. This clod is called Khwaja Ji. The saint 
by this name is worshipped and Brahmans are fed. If the 
clod should break during the digging of the well it is a bad 
omen, and a new site has to be chosen a week later. 

The use of folk remedies and the practice of primitive 
medicine runs into the world of the mysterious, into the 
realms of magic, and into the practice of the wizard's art. 
To guard against sickness, oil distilled from owl's flesh, or 
from that of the flying-fox is rubbed on the body ; turtle's 
flesh is a tonic which cures indigestion and prevents 
rheumatism ; lizard's tail is a cure for fainting-fits ; crow's 
tongue cures stammering and dumbness ; the badger's liver 
and its entrails, ground and mixed with milk, are used 
as a cure for diarrhoea ; rabbit's flesh is a medicine, 
and its entrails, powdered and mixed with mother's milk, 
are a cure for pneumonia in infants ; the hoopoe's flesh 
prevents heart disease ; the oil distilled from the flesh of 
the dhanesh (a bird with a very long bill) is used to relieve 
rheumatism ; pills made by mixing spider's web with gur 
and bedbugs are prescribed for fever and ague ; the fluid 
fried out from the cooking of a goat's liver is put into the 
eyes on a Sunday or on a Tuesday to cure night blindness ; 
hare's blood mixed with mother's milk and likewise pea- 
fowl's legs are used in the cure of fever ; to cure deafness 
a peacock is boiled in oil, and the compound so secured is 
dropped into the ear ; the contents of the kite's eye is 
used to treat weak eyes ; bat's bones are tied around the 
ankle to relieve severe pain in the bones of the legs ; 
rabbit's blood is used as a cure for white leprosy ; peacock 
feathers are placed on the bed to prevent nightmare ; 
a porcupine's intestines are dried, powdered, and given in 
water to cure wasting diseases in children ; the juice of 
onions is used to cure blindness ; human urine is prescribed 
for whooping-cough ; copper rings are worn to keep off 
pimples ; and a hen is fed to relieve a child's trouble in 
teething, or the child's mother's brother takes him on his 
hip and plows the fields. 

An interesting protective ceremony is the following: 
Near the entrance to a courtyard, or at the corner of the 


house, water-jars are placed. These are sometimes ex- 
plained as placed there so that a devil or ancestors may 
come there to drink. The offering of these water-jars is 
as follows : Before four jars placed in twos, one above the 
other, a fire is lighted in an oil-lamp. Into this fire oil is 
sprinkled by an old woman, so that the fire is kept 
burning brightly. A batasa is placed before the fire. 
The women utter prayers to the local godling, some form 
of fire, and, gathering around, sing and laugh and chatter. 
Then, one by one, they come forward and bow to the 
ground before the fire. If they have babies with them 
they touch their heads to the ground, holding the children 
by the feet head-down to do so. A young woman then 
lifts a pair of waterpots to her shoulder and then to her 
head, and, followed by the group, walks through the 
courtyard and around it, and then to the place where the 
waterpots are to be placed. Then the other pair of pots 
is placed in a similar manner. The group of women 
then return and partake of sweets. The whole object is 
to ward off disease, in some instances to preserve the 
grandson, where the husband and sons are dead. The 
godling propitiated is not malignant, but she may save 
them from sickness. 

Snake-bite is often attributed to the anger of snakes, 
and so, when a man is bitten, he calls upon the snake, in 
the name of Zahra Pir, to forgive him. A cure may be 
wrought under the direction of a medicine man. The 
person who has been bitten must sit on the ground with a 
sheet thrown over him, so as to completely hide his face. 
If the patient be a woman she must unloose her hair. If 
the person be unconscious, a twig of the nim tree must be 
placed on his head, or he is set on nim-leaves. If he be 
in his senses, ghi and black chillis are administered to 
him. One or two large covered earthen vessels are 
placed near him. The lids of the vessels and cymbals are 
beaten, or a metal tray is placed over a large earthen 
vessel and beaten with a stick, and songs are addressed to 
Raja Parikshit. This Raja was once bitten by a snake. 
These songs are sung to please the king of snakes and 
also to please the snake which has bitten the man, Then 


the spirit of the snake comes upon the man, who straight- 
way begins to dance or to wag his head. Whatever the 
patient speaks while in this state of frenzy is spoken by 
the snake-spirit, and so any orders given are carried out 
immediately. For example, he directs them to sing a 
certain song a certain number of times. When the order 
has been carried out the snake leaves the man, i.e., the 
patient is cured. When the snake-spirit comes upon the 
man it explains to him the reason for the calamity, and 
tells him what offering must be offered to secure recovery. 
These offerings will be, usually, a goat, bread, or clothes, 
which of course go to the wizard. Sometimes Zahra Pir 
himself comes. In that case they intercede with the 
saint for the man's recovery. 

The man must be kept standing ; if he falls down he 
will die. Some think that each snake is accompained by 
an evil spirit, which enters the body with the bite, and 
that this spirit must be exorcised to save the man. So 
the spirit must be driven out by a more powerful demon, 
or by means of some powerful devil-scarer. This is 
exorcism. Nona Chamari is worshipped, in the hope of 
being saved from death from snake-bite. Those who die 
of snake-bite are buried. Since it is believed that the 
person who was bitten lives on for six months, the body 
is not burned. The hope is that somebody expert in 
curing snake-bitten people may come along and discover 
that the person buried there had been bitten by a snake. 
Such a person would have the grave opened, and then, by 
the use of spells, would resuscitate the man. The body of 
one dying of snake-poison is sometimes thrown into a 
stream, with the hope that it will float along until, by some 
.chance, it comes under the influence of one who might 
restore the dead to life. Salt is sometimes put into the 
eyes of one who has been bitten by a scorpion. 

In case of malarial fever, offerings of a concoction of 
milk, hemp-leaves and sweetmeats are made. A service 
takes place on a dunghill. A black pot is whitened, 
marked with haldi, then broken, and the fragments are 
carried away by children. To prevent fever five batasas, 
Qr gur, are waved around the person and then cast into 



a river. Or water in which cloves are thrown is waved 
and then poured out at the foot of a nim tree. Bits of 
gourd are waved about the head of the patient and left at 
cross-roads. Another practice is to go quickly to a tank 
when the fever comes on and to remain there until the 
chill begins. The person then bathes and remains sitting 
in the water for two are three hours. The spirit causing 
the fever will not come into the water. Rags are tied on 
trees, and water is poured out at the foot of a tree, to 
obtain deliverance from the fever-demon. 

Another method employed to cure or to prevent dis- 
ease is to propitiate the demon responsible for the trouble. 
Sometimes a bhagat is called in, who identifies the spirit 
of the disease, and explains what must be done and what 
offerings must be made. To identify the demon caus- 
ing a disease the wizard hangs a scale-pan from his fore- 
head with his hand. Into this pan tobacco, furnished 
by the sick person, is placed. The wizard then begins to 
name over demons slowly. The name that is being called 
when the scale-pan begins to swing is the one who is 
causing the trouble. In some instances a huqqa is used 
in place of the scale-pan to identify the disease-demon. 
The wizard puffs away slowly, naming demons of disease. 
The name on his lips when his head begins to jerk 
indicates the demon. 

Sometimes Burha Baba's help is enlisted. In this case 
someone goes to a tank where this saint lives, makes 
vows and offerings, and brings home some mud, which 
is placed on the sufferer. This saint is entreated for those 
suffering from ringworm, and especially for those attacked 
by white leprosy. He receives offerings of pigs* ears and 
the flowers of the Chamdnt plant. 

Many devices are employed to coerce the spirits of 
disease and relieve the sufferer. As already suggested, 
these means are the use of devil-scarers and the employ- 
ment of powerful spirits. A coin of Mohammad Shah's 
reign is washed in water, and the liquid is given to over- 
come the spirits that make delivery painful and long. 
Many objects are thus treated to secure powerful remedies 
through the principle of sympathetic magic. Mention 


has been made of incense, especially that which smells 
most vile. Sometimes obscene and filthy language, or 
food that would out-caste a respectable man, is used to 
drive away a demon that may have been a man of 
good caste. So soups are made of toads and fecal 
matter. Sometimes the dried tongue of a pig is put into 
a bag and hung from the neck. The aid of Kali is 
invoked through the use of an iron bracelet secured from 
a priest at one of her temples. Ashes from the cremation- 
grounds are used to drive out disease-demons. 

Exorcism occupies an important place in the cure of 
disease. For dog-bite or snake-bite, and for the stings 
of various insects, nim branches are passed over the body 
while charms are pronounced. In this way the spirit is 
compelled to leave the body either through the feet or the 
head. Sometimes an old shoe is used to " rub down" 
the poison. Again, nim or mango or maddr branches 
are thrown over the patient, and he is sprinkled with 
water from a blacksmith's shop. Red-hot iron should 
have been plunged into the water frequently. 

The practice of disease transference is common. A 
wizard relates how he found in his village a yard of new 
white cloth, in which were tied, in separate places, seven 
sorts of grain and five pice. He took the cloth home and 
untied all the knots. He had a vest made of the cloth 
and spent the pice for liquor. He said that the cloth had 
been left by someone, at the suggestion of a wizard, 
because there was sickness in the house of the one who 
had furnished the cloth. Sometimes seven kinds of 
grain, seven kinds of sweets, seven pieces of haldi, and 
seven plantains are waved over a sick person, placed on 
his head, and then carried and left at a bathing-place or 
at cross-roads. A sick child is sometimes hung in the 
" cradle " of a well on a Sunday or a Tuesday ; or, when 
the fields are being watered, a child is taken out through 
a breach in a trench five times in the early morning 
.before the crows begin to caw. Diseases are transferred 
to a cock, a pig or a buffalo. The animal is then 
released in the name of some Mata. For example, a 
buffalo is painted red (by a wise man) and driven through 


the village, with noise and the beating of drums, and then 
out into the jungle. If it should return the disease would 
break out afresh. The buffalo is purchased by a sub- 
scription, in which all freely share. Likewise goats are 
purchased with freewill offerings and driven out through 
the village. Sometimes small carts are tied to their necks 
for the disease-godling to ride in. At other times a male 
goat of one colour and without blemish is taken to the 
bedside of a man stricken with cholera, and the patient 
places his hand upon the animal. The goat is then led 
about the village and then to a vacant place outside the 
town, where it is prepared, by washing, for sacrifice. A 
square is marked off and plastered with cow-dung. In 
the square a small hole is dug to receive the blood, and a 
small fire of cow-dung is also kept burning. One of the 
elders of the community then severs the head of the 
animal from its body with one blow from a chopper. If 
the sacrificer objects to taking life, the goat is marked on 
the ear and turned loose. Sometimes the sacrificial 
animal is slaughtered in the centre of the village and a feast 
is held. Occasionally, the animal is tied up to keep the 
disease from spreading. At other times a small cart, for 
the Mata, is carried through the village by the devil- 
priest. In this cart will be found a bit of a waterpot 
with black and red marks upon it, a mirror, a comb, 
earrings and bracelets. 

In times of epidemic, such as those of plague and 
cholera, these disease-demons are driven from village to 
village with noise and incantations. At other times the 
devil is ensnared, by magic, into an earthen pot, the lid is 
put on, and it is carried off to another place. This is 
done, with the help of Man, with incantations and the use 
of the shinbone of an ass. 

It is often necessary to protect a village from such 
disease-demons as might be driven into it. Sometimes 
a magic circle is drawn, by means of milk and spirits, 
around the village. During epidemics people put five 
lights on the village boundary to bar the approach of 
foreign spirits, and, with much shouting and the beating 
of drums, drive disease-demons on to the next settlement. 


Disease transference often has for its purpose the 
injury or destruction of others, as well as release for an 
epidemic. This has been illustrated in the methods of 
expelling plague and cholera. In cases of smallpox the 
clothes of a sick child are sometimes thrown behind another 
house, or even into another home, with the hope that the 
disease will go with the garments. Food is often used in 
the same way. Again, rags are used to transfer it to 
someone else. 

The belief is common that Chamars use "their" 
demons to cause disease and for revenge. 

Demons are active enemies of cattle, and cattle are 
protected and their diseases are treated by methods 
similar to those already described. For example, various 
forms of a ceremony known as the Gobardhan is 
performed at Dewali time. For increase of cattle, or for 
protection, a ceremony that may be classed as symbolic 
magic is performed. A square of cow-dung is made in 
which marks are drawn with barley flour. At each corner 
of the figure three cakes of cow-dung are piled up. 
Through each three cakes a broom-splint is driven ; and 
on the top of each pile bits of cotton and cotton-seed are 
placed. This chauk is left in the house for three days, 
after which it is taken into the compound and placed 
in the regular runway for the cattle, that they may walk 
over it. The herdsman is feasted. Sometimes an offering 
of fire, rice and water, in honour of Mahadeo, is set out 
in a runway and the cattle tramp over it. To drive away 
cattle-disease various forms of garlands are used. For 
example, seven kinds of grain and two pice are put into 
a bag and hung over a doorway where cattle pass. 
Garlands of siras or mango leaves, with a mystic 
inscription on an earthen platter attached to the middle 
of the string, is hung across the village gate. At other 
times numbers are written on a piece of tile, with an 
incantation to Nona Chamari, and hung on a rope over 
the village cattle-path, or a wizard is employed to write 
a charm on a wooden label. This is hung inside a small 
earthen waterpot, like the clapper of a bell. This is 
attached to a string and hung over the village gate. It 


will ring when the wind blows. Or, a f aqir reads a passage 
from some sacred book over a long string to which a red 
rag and potsherds with charms written upon them are 
attached. This is hung across the village gate. 

A more elaborate device of the same kind is made as 
follows: To drive off cattle -disease two and a half 
pounds of urd and seven chappans (earthen jar-covers) 
are bound in a rope as a har, or garland. Between the 
chappans the urd is hung in bags. On the covers 
(chappans) red, yellow and black marks are made. This 
har is hung over the roadway by which the cattle go out 
to pasture. Occasionally this is hung up outside of the 
village, where all the animals can go under it. Cattle are 
branded on the legs with a circle with a cross in 
it, with Solomon's seal, or with Siva's trident, or with 
a similar device, especially as a cure for lameness. To 
cure worms in cattle tie an animal in a marshy 
place. Tiger's flesh is burned in the cattle-stall and 
the smoke is " given " to the cattle, and sometimes 
the smoke of nim-leaves is used. Again, haldi, cloves, 
sugar, flowers, charcoal and dub-grass are ground 
together and over this limejuice is poured. A sweeper is 
then called. He takes his drum and leads a procession 
around the village, beating his drum as he goes. A man 
follows him scattering this preparation made of seven 
things as he goes, and then a young pig is sacrificed to the 
village godling. The disease is thus driven out. Rord, a 
contagious disease of cattle, is transferred to the east on a 
Saturday or a Sunday night. No fieldwork is done, no 
grain is cut, no food is cooked, nor is a fire lighted 
during the day. The transference of rora (rord ddlnd) 
is carried out as follows : In procession a buffalo's skull, 
a small lamb, vessels of butter and milk, fire in a pan, 
wisps of grass, and siras sticks are carried to the boundary 
of the village, and then these things are thrown over the 
boundary. A gun is fired three times to frighten away 
the disease. Again, about midnight, two men carry the 
lower half of an earthen pot with a fire inside and a cloth 
beneath. They are accompanied by fifty men with long 
clubs (lath*}, who beat the ground and anything that they 


chance to meet and thus drive the disease out of each 

The foregoing pages show how fully the Chamar 
enters into the practice of magic and primitive medicine, 
and how large a place there is for the witch and wizard, 
the medicine man, and the devil-priest. The legend of 
Nona, the Chamari, is a good illustration of many points in 
this belief in witchcraft. She is a deified witch much 
dreaded in the eastern part of the Provinces. Her name 
is invoked in times of trouble, in sickness, and for the 
cure of snake-bite. According to the legend Dhanwantri, 
the physician of the gods, was bitten by Takshaka, the 
king of snakes, and, knowing that death approached, he 
ordered his sons to cook and eat his body after 
death, so that they might thereby inherit their father's 
medical skill. The sons were about the eat the body, 
having cooked it in a cauldron, when Takshaka appeared 
in the form of a Brahman and warned them against this 
act of cannibalism. They therefore allowed the cauldron 
to float down the Ganges. As it floated, Nona, the 
Chamari, who was washing on the bank of the river, not 
knowing that the vessel contained human flesh took it out 
and ate its contents. She immediately obtained power to 
cure diseases, especially snake-bite. One day all the 
women were transplanting rice, and it was found that 
Nona could do as much work as all her companions put 
together. So they watched her. When she thought she 
was alone she stripped off all her clothes, muttered some 
spells, and threw the plants into the air. They all settled 
down in their proper places. Finding that she was 
observed she tried to escape, and as she ran the earth 
opened and all the water of the ricefields followed her. 
Thus was formed the channel of the Noni river in the 
Unao District. 1 

Like most people in the villages, Chamars are ever on 
the lookout for signs of the black art. Nearly everybody 
is fearful lest someone carry out sinister plots against him, 

1 Crooke, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, Vol. II., pp. 170, 171. This form of story is common. 
Instances of nakedness in connection with magic are numerous. 


and much superstitious fear centres around the wise man 
and the wise woman. Belief in the magic power of 
human fat, or the essence of the body, Mumiai, 1 and that 
certain faqirs distil a medicine from the bodies of fat, black 
boys, is widespread. This is but a phase of the belief that 
results can be accomplished by mysterious powers, and 
that works of this nature are being done all the time. 
Behind this point of view is the belief not only that 
unseen powers are always anxious to do evil, but also that 
these same powers may be under the influence or power 
of some one skilled in the art of witchcraft. 

The belief is common that certain persons are able by 
a look or by incantations to tear out the liver or the 
heart of anyone against whom they may choose to exert 
this influence ; that they can extract substances from sick 
persons* bodies, and that they can throw anyone into 
a decline. Some witches are able to produce abortion by 
the use of magic squares, and others kill children by means 
of occult powers. Some of these uncanny women can 
assume the forms of beautiful young women, or of 
hideous Kaliratrl (Black Night), or of other terrible 
beings, and are able to transform themselves into 
tigers and other wild animals. It is wise to knock out the 
front teeth of one suspected of being a witch, lest, in 
the form of a wild beast, she tear one to pieces. In the 
descriptions of private and of public magic and of folk 
medicine are found additional testimony to the belief in 
the exercise of occult powers. 

The names denoting sorcerer, wizard, magician, exorcist, 
soothsayer, witch-doctor, medicine-man, and the like, are 
many. All of them apply to the persons occupied in various 
phases of the profession. The names are : Ojhd (teacher), 
sayana (cunning, shrewdness, cleverness), gyarii (the wise 
one), neotiya, gum (skilful, dexterous), baiga (an aboriginal 
devil-priest), aghora (one who feeds upon dead bodies and 
other disgusting food), and bhagat (a devoted man). 
Old women who are decrepit, or of evil temper, are often 

1 Crooke, An Introduction to the Popular Religion and Folklore 
of Northern India, pp. 299, 300. 


considered as witches, and some say that the power of 
witchcraft is possessed by persons afflicted by ugliness and 
bad disposition, fits and the like. On the other hand, it 
is said that a witch must be of pleasing disposition. 

Chamars employ wizards belonging to other castes 
besides their own, and their own caste-wizards serve other 
castes, even the twice-born. Of all the " priests " or 
" religious " leaders of the Chamars, this class of persons 
is in many respects the most influential and the most 
dreaded. Women are more feared than men. The 
ignorant are kept in superstitious bondage by those persons 
who deal in matters more or less uncanny ; and their arts 
and beliefs are spoken of in whispers even by the wise man 
himself. They live upon a spurious system of natural law, 
and their art is a secret service for anti-social, nefarious 
ends. The black art is not one which anyone can 
practice. It appears when the method and ends are 
regarded with disapproval, because injury is intended, and 
the purport of the act, as anti-social in spirit, is one that 
no one ought to perform. The magician has power all 
his own. While in animism man consults spirits, in 
magic he controls spirits. Magic exists where the man 
has power over nature and where he is independent of the 
supreme will. The wizard does everything without the aid 
of the gods. 1 

The black art is therefore anti-religious. The 
magician uses methods which include the principles of 
sympathy, similarity, and mimicry ; and, conciously or 
unconsciously, use is made of suggestion, fear, fascination, 
telepathy, and various other psychical processes Nefarious 
magic is practised at night. An illustration of some of the 
principles involved in the practice of the art is given in 
the following account by a Chamar exorcist (jhdr phuihk 
karnewdld) : If, when a man falls ill, his condition is 
attributed to the activity of an evil spirit, a neotiya is 
called. He prepares a space, with a plaster made of cow- 
dung, and places the sick man upon it. A one-wicked 
lamp is lighted and incense is burned, and a cocoanut and 

1 Lyall, Asiatic Studies, First Series, p. 104. 


a lime are placed in the square. Country liquor is furnished. 
Of this the neotiya pours out some as an oblation and 
then drinks of what is left. A damru (a drum) is then 
beaten in a peculiar way, for a time in slow pulsations and 
then very rapidly and then with varying rhythm, until the 
sick man is " possessed " of the spirit causing the disease; 
that is, until the patient begins to wag his head. This 
spirit is then coerced by means of a mantra, which brings 
the wizard*s demons into action. The neotiya now asks, 
" Why do you give trouble ? " The spirit, speaking 
through the sick man, states the reason, which, quite likely, 
may be that the spirit's grave has been befouled by the 
sick man. The spirit is then commanded to pronounce 
the words, " Ram, Ram," and to make the following 
promise i 1 

" On the name of iva at the time established, 
I call Earth to witness, 
In whatever way he has dishonoured thee 
Let the dispute (grudge) be dropped (be forgotten), 
As when the lower half of the waterpotis broken (the pot is done 

Even if he (the sick man) walks backward and forward on thy 


Give expression to thy displeasure not even by an " Ah!" 
Now I call for release (for the sick man), 
In the name of Prince Lachhman, of Mahadeo, and his consort, 

and of Hanuman, the powerful." 

To escape torment at the hands of the neotiya's 
demons the evil spirit makes this promise and 
leaves the patient. The offerings which were made 
are considered as given to the wizard's Bir, or powerful 
demon, who compelled the disease-spirit to come out 
of the sick man. The wizard now goes home, taking 
with him his fee of five rupees. The cocoanut and the 

1 Siva bdcha samo laganya 
Dharti sdkh gayd war kl par 
Tujh ko jhagra chhut, kaprd phut 
Ten chhdtl charhe awe jde 
Ah to na karihe 
Ab duhai hai 

Lachhman kuthwar, Mahadeo 
Gaura Parbati, Mahdbir Hanuman jl kl. 


lime are divided and distributed among the people at the 
sick man's house. The neotiya spends the fee in the 
worship of some of his other godlings at his own home. 
To these he will offer ghi (in fire), cocoanuts, country 
liquor, and a goat. The head of the goat is cut off at a 
single stroke and placed immediately before the deohdr. 
If the head " speak " he knows the offerings have been 
accepted by the godlings. If not, this offering is made 
over to some others. 

For prophecy various methods to produce frenzy or 
trance are used. For example, while the bhagat plays the 
cymbals an accomplice wags his head until, finally, spirit- 
possession is obtained. Then the wizard tells by what 
spirit the person is possessed, and what the spirit wishes by 
way of propitiation. Frequently the sick person dances 
with the bhagat, and then, in a trance, tells the wizard 
about the spirit-possession. The demon usually expresses 
himself as desiring the sacrifice of a chicken, a goat, or a 
pig, or the offerings of sweetmeats, ornaments, clothing, 
or money. Of course, the bhagat receives these articles. 
Other means of naming spirits are used. For example, the 
sayana receives tobacco from the person who calls him in, 
which, while music is being played, he waves over the body 
of the patient. He then smokes, and begins to dance, and 
often to beat himself with a whip of cords. While in the 
state of frenzy which follows, he names the cause of the 
disease and the remedy. Or, he calls on the names of 
various diseases and the disease-demons as he smokes. 
Sooner or later he is obliged to cough, and the name that 
is on his lips as he begins to cough is that of the demon 
causing the trouble. Sometimes the wizard waves grain 
over the patient's body on a Saturday or a Sunday. He 
then counts the grains one by one and places them in 
heaps, and names a godling for each heap. The demon 
into whose heap the last grain falls is the one to be 

Simple magical practices, but with the use of mantras 
(charms) are common. These are used to exercise power 
over the one towards whom the magic (jddu, tond) 
is directed. For this purpose, water in which the rope 


used to tie the front feet of an ass, or water in 
which a woman's napkin has been washed, is given 
to a person to drink. Similar secret methods used 
as love-charms, and for revenge, have been mentioned 
above. 1 It is said that owl's flesh given to either sex 
(secretly, of course) will make the recipient fall violently in 
love with the giver, and that love, so induced, is not likely 
to abate. So the bhagat furnishes the love-charm. Like- 
wise owrs heart is obtained from the wizard, after proper 
spells are recited, in order to secure power over another. 
Again, an owl is killed on a Monday, and its eyes are 
burned. When the ashes of the right eye are thrown on 
a woman's garments she begins to love the one who paid 
for the magic. Should the man become tired of the 
woman, he can break the spell by using the ashes of the 
other eye. 

The wizard rarely attempts the impossible, and invari- 
ably provides for failure ; but the superstitious attitude of 
mind, so pronounced among the masses, greatly enhances 
the influence which he is able to exert, and his directions 
are usually carried out minutely. Many acts, described 
under " Birth Customs " and under the various topics in 
this chapter, which seem absurd or awful, are performed 
because the wizard says so. 

The power of the bhagat rests in the control of spirits 
and godlings, by means of his peculiar bhuts and divinities. 
These spirits, or demons, are brought under his control in 
one of two ways : either the spirits are given into his 
power by his teachers or his parents, or he secures control 
of spirits by means of well-known devices. Magical powers 
are obtained by pouring water on a babul tree for three 
days. By this means the person gets control of the spirits 
inhabiting the tree. It is said that if a person puts an owl 
into a room, goes in naked and feeds the bird with meat all 
night, he will obtain superhuman power. Such powers 
are obtained also by eating filth, by eating human flesh, 2 
and by repeating charms backwards. Asceticism leads to 

1 Page 168. 

3 See the legend of Nona Chamari above. 


such powers, which include knowledge of the past and of 
the future, the ability to read men's thoughts, and the power 
to fly in the air or to float on the water. Yogism is a 
system of strange, extraordinary and mysterious know- 
ledge giving his possessor very extensive powers over men 
and over natural phenomena. 

It is to obtain control of spirits that these persons 
visit the burial-grounds or burning-ghats, and make 
uses of ashes from the funeral pyre. Especially is this the 
case when a wizard, or a witch, or a woman dying 
in childbirth, has been burned. A man takes the flesh 
and liver of a black crow and cooks them separately, 
and likewise the flesh and liver of a pig and a goat. He 
then makes a karhi, places it upon a plate made of imli 
(tamarind) leaves, with sweets, sherbet, eggs and 
plantains. These are taken to the cremation-grounds, 
where with mantras and a fire-sacrifice they are set out for 
some ghost to eat. The spirit, bhut or pret, which accepts 
the food, thereby falls into the wizard's hands and must 
thereafter obey his commands. 

Another illustration which has some points resembling 
those in the case just related, shows how a novice seeks 
to get control of spirits. The pupil learns the mantras 
from his master and follows out all instructions. He may 
be sent to a spot on the bank of a river where a body has 
been burned recently. There he washes, lights a fire, 
repeats spells, casts ghi, spirits and sweets into the fire, 
passes his hands through the fire, and touches his 
forehead. This ceremony he may repeat on one or two 
successive Sundays. His purpose is to get the spirit of the 
dead under his control, for then he can compel the spirit 
to carry out his good and evil commands. 

Another method is to secure the body of a child that 
has been cast into the Ganges, bathe it again, dress it in 
new clothes, sprinkle the body with scents, put surma into 
its eyes, light a fire and sing. His purpose is to cause the 
child to revive and dance. If the child come back to life 
the novice has its spirit in his power. If the pupil does 
not succeed under his master's directions, the magic is not 
perfect, and the process will be repeated. 


Some wizards have many spirits under control, and 
some have also great demons (Birs) or godlings, who have 
a great following of lesser spirits. For the most part these 
demons are not widely known. 

The specialists in magic transmit their lore to their 
pupils orally, and charms or spells are given which enable 
the pupil to control the spirits belonging to his master. 
In some cases the profession is hereditary. The pupil 
is most carefully trained, and in some instances he goes 
though a very vigorous course of discipline. 

The following ceremonies were performed by a 
Nalchhina Chamar sayana in passing his powers on to his 
son : On the bank of a stream a goat, together with a 
lime, a cocoanut, spirits and flowers, was offered. 
(These things are greatly liked by the giant-demon, the 
Bir of Lohra, the strong one, the hero of Lohra, who 
is this wizard's very powerful servant.) This Bir has a 
host of lesser demons under his control. After the 
sacrifice the father led the son into the stream, and then 
the following protective spell addressed to the Bir was 
repeated 1 : " O Lord, whatever magic this one directs, 
that do thou bring to pass ! If he makes mistakes forgive 
him; do not torment him." After this the mantras 
(charms) were taught. The mantra for Lohra ka Bir is 
as follows : 

" Let me control the males (men) and the powerful (the braves) 
and those among the jogis who are powerful. 

" Let me control the five strong ones of Bengal ; and the evil 
spirits and demons ; 

"Let me control the five strong ones of Prithi Simh (Lion of 
the Earth), the head -covering (and women (?) i.e., who have their 
heads covered ) . 

" Let me control all who live where her mother lives (persons 
and demons), and likewise those who live at her husband's home; 
and the well, and those who assemble. 

" Let me control the coming and going (i.e., those who pass by ; 
or, May I have control of the streets and all who pass in them). 

" Let me control the magic of the Dom and the Chamar. 

" Let me control the magic of the Khatik and the Kumhar. 

1 Maharaj jo kuchh jhdr phumk kare is ka kaha karnd 
Aur agar kuchh is se bigar jae t is ko mu'af karnd t is ko satdnd 


"I claim the delivering power of the powerful Hanum,n, of 
Prince Lachhman, of Rama and Sita." * 

In these lines the sayana calls upon his Bir to inhibit 
certain magical powers, and upon other spirits to help him 
in his designs. He then taught his son how to proceed 
in the control of spirits, and how to use mantras in his 
profession (mantra phumkna). 

The following account shows how a witch makes 
human sacrifice to her demons, in order to strengthen 
and maintain her power over them ; for the beings through 
whom she practises her art require human sacrifices, or 
at least human blood. Should she be unable to carry out 
some such procedure as this now to be described, she 
must draw blood from some person's veins, or from her 
own, and offer it. In the case under consideration, the 
demon sucks the victim's blood through the lips of the 
witch. When a woman who is possessed of the spirit of 
witchcraft has a craving to practise the art, she casts the 
spell of the evil eye upon a child, and utters a charm so 
powerful that within a certain time, which she deter- 
mines two and a half hours, or seven or fourteen 
days the child dies. On the night after the body has 
been buried in the jungle by its parents, the witch, taking 
a knife, sarsorh oil, and a small one-wicked lamp, goes 
to the place of burial. Then she strips off all her clothes, 
and there, with her own excreta she plasters a small 
piece of ground. After making little balls of excreta and 
lighting the lamp she opens the grave, lifts out the body 
of the child and anoints it with oil. When the child 
revives, she feeds it, loves it, and plays with it until it 
laughs. She then places the child on the plastered spot 

1 " Nar bdmdhum, sur bdmdhum, jogi bir bdmdhum, 

Pdnch bir Bangdle ke bdmdhum, bhut paret bdmdhum; 

Pdnch bir Prithi Simh ke bdmdhum, sir ki jhaguli bdmdhum, 

Maike bdmdhum, sasure bdmdhum, kudm panghat ko bdmdhum t 

Awdjdhi bdmdhum, Domdr Chamdr ki vidiyd bdmdhum, 

Aur Khatik Kumhdr ki bdmdhum t Mahdbir Hanumdn ji ki 

Lachhman Kumivdr Mahdbir Hanumdn ji Bhagwdn (Ram) ki 

Jdnki (Sitd) ji ki duhdi." 


and begins to dance. After that she cuts out its heart, 
sucks a little of the blood, and then replaces the heart and 
reburies the body. The wizard who told this explained 
that, if the parents suspected that the child had died 
of fascination, they would arrange for two men to watch 
in a tree near the grave that night. If one of the men 
should rush out and seize the witch by the tuft of hair on 
the crown of her head while she was dancing and cut 
it off, and if the other man should put out the light at 
the same time and snatch up the child, the witch's 
magic powers would be destroyed and the child would 
be saved alive. He cited a case in point where the witch's 
head was shaved and she was turned out of the village. 

Magic works both ways, and bhagats are often pitted 
against each other. There are also devices to neutralize 
the effects of spells. One way is to kill a black monkey 
on a Thursday, drink a little of the blood, and then take 
the skin and wear it as a cap. If, while a wizard is 
curing a bewitched child, he shaves his upper leg, the 
other magician (witch or wizard) who cast the spell over 
the child will have his head shaved, and through that 
very act the power of witchcraft will depart from him. 

The area of a bhagat's influence varies but is not very 
wide. His powers are greatest on the fourteenth, 
fifteenth and twenty-ninth of each month, at the Holi 
time, during the Nauratri of the Durga Puja, and during 
the Dewali festival. On these nights wizards and witches 
are supposed to be abroad. They cast off their clothes and 
ride tigers and other wild animals, and alligators convey 
them over streams. 

Thfe discovery of witches proceeds from suspicion. For 
example, it is noticed that, after a woman's visit to a house, 
a child falls ill. The same thing happens in another house. 
The woman is straightway under suspicion. Evidence as 
slight as this is frequently accepted. The case is related 
of a noted mahant who had a small boil on his leg. One 
day, as he was riding on his elephant, a woman cast an 
evil glance upon the leg, and very bad blood-poisoning 
ensued. The woman was suspected of the act, so her 
husband's brother was called. He spoke to her about the 


matter, and in reply she said, " I wish that he be well 
again." The swelling subsided. The narrator (a Chamar) 
said that this occurred about fifteen years ago. He also 
related that, owing to this same woman's art, a cow in 
her own house refused to give milk. A wizard, with 
powers superior to hers, who was called in, destroyed her 
spells, and the cow began to give milk again. But shortly 
afterwards the cow died. Then the woman disappeared 
that is, she was murdered. The wives of four brothers in 
the family died within the year. This also was her 
work. When it is thought that there is a witch in a 
village, and she cannot be found out, a lamp is lighted 
and the names of old women are called out. The flicker- 
ing of the flame as the names are being called indicates 
the guilty person. Other tests are used to remove doubt 
as to the guilt or innocence of accused persons. For 
example, if a wizard or a witch is struck by a branch of the 
castor-oil plant he will cry out. Pain is a sign of guilt. 
Chamars are exceedingly afraid even of a slight blow from 
a castor-oil switch. Another test is as follows : Two 
pipal-leaves, one to represent the accused and one the 
accuser, are chosen. These are allowed to fall upon the 
accused's head. If " his" fall uppermost the indications 
are suspicious, but if the other fall uppermost he is 
probably innocent. If the test leaves him under suspicion, 
the next day the accused is sewn up in a sack in the 
presence of the headman of the village, carried waist- 
deep into water, and let down. If he gets up in his 
struggles he is guilty, for a magician cannot sink in water. 
Another test is for a wizard who is trying to discover the 
sorcerer to shave the hair on his leg. The hair on the 
head of the witch is shaved off at the same time, and she 
is discovered. Sometimes witches are caught in the act. 
There are many instances similar to that of Nona Chamari, 
where the woman is discovered naked and working magic. 
It is said that occasionally women are found performing 
the following magic on the lamp-lighting day of Dewali : 
The witch takes four pestles (musal) into a room, and 
places one in each corner. She then strips off her 
clothes, pronounces a spell over pulse (urd) and throws 



it at the pestles. These leave their places, rush together 
with a clash, and fall down. She then puts them away. 
In this way she tests her magic powers. Witches are 
sometimes identified by the peculiar stare which is their 
characteristic. Some witches are accompanied by cats. 

A person discovered in the practice of witchcraft or 
suspected of the offence is very cruelly and roughly 
handled. The witch is often beaten with shoes and clubs. 
Sometimes she is put upon an ass, set with her face 
towards its tail, and ridden out of the village. At other 
times she is compelled to work a cure where she had 
caused an illness. Her teeth are knocked out with a 
stone, or filth is thrown upon her, or she has to drink 
water from a tanner's vat, or her head is shaved, or her 
face is blackened, or mutilation is resorted to. Efforts 
are often made to murder her. In former times many 
persons were put to death every year for practising the 
black art, and this occurs occasionally even yet. The 
following is a case in point: " An extraordinary story of 
the murder of a woman believed to be a witch was told 

before Mr. to-day. Four coolies working at have 

been arrested in this connection. Deceased was a labourer, 
and recently some deaths occurred in the coolie lines. 
One of the accused is alleged to have said deceased was a 
witch, who, by her black art, had killed the coolies, and 
that unless the witch was got rid of more deaths would 
occur. About 6 p.m. on Wednesday the accused caught 
deceased by the hair, and, assisted by a large number of 
coolies, dragged her before Mr. , demanding her eject- 
ment from the coolie lines, on the ground that she was 
a witch exercising an evil influence among the coolies, 
with the intention of killing them. The result of the 

interview with Mr. has not been disclosed ; but the 

coolies, being in an excited and frenzied state, dragged the 
woman back, brutally assaulting her on the way. Nearing 
the house where the deceased lived, accused, it is alleged, 
dashed her to the ground, killing her on the spot." 1 
Similar cases are frequently brought before the courts, 

* News item, Pioneer, August 25, 1910, 


If, because of her particular behaviour, a visitor is 
suspected of practising magic, the host (or hostess) will 
spit upon the place where she sat, as soon as the visitor 
has gone. She will also stamp on the spot, and say: "If 
there had been a stalk of bajra, I would have chopped it 
up fine." 1 This should be repeated within the visitor's 
hearing. In case the witch is one who cannot cure, 
although she can cause, disease, or in case the witch is 
not found, a more powerful wizard or witch is called in to 
remove the effects of the magic. If a witch, by casting an 
evil glance upon the mother, causes an infant to fall ill 
from feeding, a wizard is called in to remove the spell. 
Fire is put into an earthen pot, and the mother lets a few 
drops of her milk fall into it. Barley husks, mustard and 
red peppers are placed in the pot, it is waved about the 
child's head, and left in the road. Cures are wrought by 
the punishment of witches. 

The wizard, besides practising the black art, manu- 
factures amulets and charms, and offers sacrifices to 
godlings and demons in times of epidemics. It is said 
that when such persons become Christians they lose this 
magical power. Neither can they accomplish their purposes 
when Christians are present. 

The accounts given above show how thoroughly the 
ideas of witchcraft are planted in the mind of the Chamar. 
The conversations with these professionals reveal also 
the utter depravity of their minds. Their thoughts are 
full of lust and uncleanness. It is hardly necessary to 
remark that this kind of " religious " leader is of a low 
mental type, that he is bestial in his habits, and that he is 
given to flesh-eating and to drunkenness. 

1 " A gar bdjre kl narai hott t to mairti katar ddlta." 


SOME nature-gods have their places in the Chamar's 
religious world, but their position is not what it was in 
former times. Suriya, Suraj Deota (the Sun), for example, 
is now nothing but a godling, or perhaps a deified hero. 
While the Chamar is not admitted to the shrines of this 
godling, still, every morning as he leaves his house he bows 
his head, joins his hands and calls upon the Sun as Suraj 
Narayan. There are phases of sun-worship in the 
domestic ritual (e.g., in the phera) and in the course the 
cattle take in treading out the grain. Those who have no 
children fast and worship Suraj Deota, in the hope of 
obtaining offspring. The swastika and various figures in 
which the circle appears are symbols of the sun. 

Fire also is worshipped, and is used in many parts of 
the domestic ritual and in sacrifice. 

The stars are the spirits of people, and every person has 
a star. When one dies his star falls. 

The new moon is addressed with the words, " Ram, 
Ram." On the birthday of Krishna people fast, and no 
one begins to eat until about midnight when the moon 
rises. Women worship the moon, that their children may 
escape disease. They take water in a lota and pour out an 
oblation after doing reverence to the moon. They also 
fast the whole day of the new moon. The moon is called 
mamu (uncle) by the children in Oudh. The spots on 
the moon represent an old woman sitting under a banyan 
tree, running a spinning-wheel. The halo around the 
moon is a sign of drought or of famine. 

Eclipses are times of great anxiety, because the moon 
is then in great trouble. It is a time of ceremonial 


pollution, when bathing is necessary ; and any cooked food 
that might have been in hand when the eclipse began 
must be thrown out. 

An eclipse is a time when demons have the upper 
hand and are about in force. So buffaloes and cows with 
calf are marked with cow-dung and their horns are 
smeared with red-lead. Pregnant women are protected 
with marks of cow-dung (on the abdomen) and are not 
allowed to go to sleep. The eclipse is explained as 
follows : The sun and the moon were brothers. A 
hungry worshipper came to them, saying, " I am poor and 
hungry. Give me something to eat." The brothers 
went to a sweeper-woman, and said, " Give this man 
grain." She had a bin in which were all kinds of grain. 
She agreed to give grain to the beggar for a year. She 
was directed by the brothers to take the grain out of the 
bin from below, and they agreed to fill it by putting grain 
in from the top. During the year the sun and the 
moon were unable to fill the bin, and when the year was 
up, the woman said, " Now pay me, for the bin is not 
full." They were unable to pay her and hid themselves. 
Now, when eclipses occur, the worshippers of the sun and 
moon collect various kinds of grain, mix them and 
distribute them to beggars, and thus deliver the sun and 
the moon from shame. 

Indra (Raja Indar) is another who has fallen from his 
high estate. He is still worshipped in connection with 
the rains, but as a mere godling. 

Rivers receive special consideration as great satisfiers 
of life. Among the sacred rivers are the Ganges, the 
Jumna and the Sarju, and their branches, the Narbada 
and the Son. Floods are caused by demons. People 
refrain from saving drowning folks lest they offend some 
deity who is thus claiming his desire. Khwajah Khizr 
(Raja Kidar), the godling of the water, is worshipped by 
lighting lamps and feeding Brahmans, and by setting 
afloat on the village pond little rafts of sacred grass with 
lighted lamps on them. His vehicle is the fish. Water- 
holes are dwelling-places of demons. Wells are an object 
of worship, especially by women, with offerings of sweets 


on a tray, and by singing, and by the beating of drums. 
Offerings are placed on the well-curb, worshipped, and then 
eaten. Some, however, throw the offerings into the well. 
In cases of sickness none of the offering is eaten, but it is 
left to be taken away by some person or animal, and the 
consumer of the offering is expected to carry off the disease. 
Sometimes, at Dewali, the water of seven wells is drawn 
and barren women bathe in it. Chamars accept also 
sacred lakes and tanks as objects of worship. 

The range of the Chamar's superstitions and beliefs 
begins with the primitive notions of animism, and reaches 
up through the worship of nature-deities. However, the 
deified saints, the tutelary, the village, and the nature- 
deities are not real gods, but at best mere officials of the 
gods, possessing but varying degrees of power. And 
these lesser beings are all that he knows. The great 
gods of the Hindu pantheon are scarcely known to 
the Chamar, although his beliefs are of the polytheistic 
type. Still, he has a vague belief of a better sort. 
The Superintendent of the Census of 1901, in his general 
report for the United Provinces, 1 said: "The general 
result of my inquiries is that the great majority of 
Hindus have a firm belief in one supreme God, called 
Bhagwan, Parameshwar, Ishvar or Narain, and that this 
is distinctly characteristic of the Hindus as a whole. " This 
observation applies to the Chamar. Or, as Sir Alfred 
Lyall has put it, 2 the devout man trusts that there is 
something better beyond and above the gods. And the 
Chamar worships, even though it be in a hazy fashion, 
this Supreme Being. It would be interesting to discover 
whether the notions of a Supreme Being are of the Indian 
theistic type. This would be a reasonable conclusion, for the 
great movements set on foot by Ramananda have influ- 
enced nearly all sections of the Chamar caste, and many 
Chamars now call themselves after some of these reformers. 

The Chamar accepts the doctrines of transmigration 
and of karma, and this belief explains many of the death 

Pp. 73, 74. 

* Asiatic Studies (First Series), p. 67. 


customs and some of the birth customs; and, for 
the most part, these ideas exercise a dumb, depressing, 
fatalistic influence upon them. There are, however, 
certain sects of the Chamars which teach that guru- 
worship will issue in a permanent release from the round 
of births. 

For the most part, Chamars are denied admission to 
Hindu temples. Their offerings are, however, accepted ; 
and they may stand in front of the entrance and look in. 
Brahmans will accept food and cash from, although they 
will not touch, Chamars. On the other hand, Chamars 
are allowed to make offerings at temples to Devi, to 
Bhairom and to the Matas, ^at some temples to Sitala, 
and at unenclosed temples to Siva. In some places they 
have their own temples. 

There are many shrines in which the Chamar has 
great faith, and from which miracles of healing have been 
reported. Such shrines are places of pilgrimage. Some 
of the shrines belong to local Chamar groups. Oc- 
casionally an iron chain, about three and a half feet 
long and weighing seven pounds, is suspended from the 
roof of such temples or shrines, and with this the local 
devil-priest may beat himself into a frenzy. There is a 
good deal of worship of godlings and of spirits at local 
village shrines and at the place where the village boundary 
godlings are kept. This latter place, which is generally 
under a tree, usually a nim tree, is made up of a heap of 
stones or bricks, sometimes placed upon a rude platform. 
Some shrines are the property of a group of villages. The 
images, which are mere stones, are smeared with vermilion 
and ghi. Sometimes clay images of horses and elephants, 
the vehicles of the godlings, and peculiar bowls on three 
legs, and beehive-shaped vessels (kalsa) are found. A small 
cot in the nim tree commemorates the recovery of some 
one from smallpox. Sometimes a devil-priest is in charge 
of a local shrine. The offerings before the godlings 
consist of lamps, cakes, milk, goats, pigs, fowls and, 
occasionally, a buffalo. Worship at these shrines is inter- 
mittent, and they are neglected until some pestilence or 
calamity falls upon the people. 


Chamars employ Brahmans as astrologers. Besides 
this, in the west, nearly all Chamars employ Chamarwa 
Brahmans as priests. In the east, the well-to-do engage 
degraded Sarwariya or Kanaujiya Brahmans. Gurra 
Brahmans, who wear the sacred thread but who are 
looked upon by other Brahmans as polluted, receive 
offerings from Chamars but do not eat with their clients 
nor enter their houses. Chamarwa Brahmans serve certain 
sub-castes of Chamars and sometimes preside at wed- 
dings. Formerly they intermarried with Chamars, 1 but 
they are now an endogamous group. Those of the 
Punjab were Chamars. A branch of the Gaur Brahmans, 
the Chamar Gaudas, serve the Chamars as priests. The 
Jatiyas of some parts of the Punjab employ high-caste Gaur 
Brahmans. 2 

Chamars have their bairdgis and sadhus, and these 
mingle with other mendicants at such places as Jagannath, 
and often bear the brand-marks of Dwarka, Badrinath and 

Another and important class of religious leaders are 
teachers, or gurus, men of various sects, who travel over 
the country expounding religious doctrines and initiating 
candidates into their special panths (sects), and who have 
a comparatively good influence upon the community. 
They are held in high esteem and are usually obeyed. 
The more respected and better instructed men amongst 
them, who are accepted as leaders and who are honoured 
by the title of guru, derive their support from offerings and 
fees. The following statement, abridged from Crooke's 
Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and 
Oudh, is a description of the travelling Kabir Panth 
mahant, or guru : When a disciple is initiated by a guru 
of the sect, a piece of ground in the house of the candidate is 
plastered with cow-dung. On this spot is placed a pitcher 
full of water. In the mouth of the pitcher mango-twigs 
are fixed. On the pitcher a lamp containing ghi is lighted 
and an offering consisting of sandal-wood, holy rice, 

1 Rose, A Glossary of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North- 
West Frontier Province, Vol. II. p. 131. 

a Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. III. p. 353. 


flowers and incense is burned. A garland of flowers is 
placed around the neck of the pitcher, and the core of a 
cocoanut with some batasas is offered. Camphor is burnt. 
The candidate sits in the holy space before the guru, who 
says to him, " Repeat the name of the true being within 
you with breath. M Then morning and evening prayers 
are taught. The initiate is taught also a number of 
hymns to be sung morning and evening. The guru visits 
his disciple once a year, in the cold season, and he and 
other mendicants of the sect are entertained by him for a 
couple of days. Every day the disciple washes the big-toe 
of the guru and drinks the water, charandmrita. The 
disciple then, with his hands joined, thrice makes obeisance 
to the guru and utters thrice the word, "BandagI, Sahib. " 
As long as the guru remains in the house the disciple joins 
with him and his mendicants in singing songs morning 
and evening. When the guru is leaving, the disciple does 
obeisance, makes him a present of money, vessels and other 
useful articles, and salutes him with the words " Bandagi, 
Sahib." When the disciple visits his guru he is entertained 
by his teacher, but he leaves a present when he departs. 
Everything important in the life _ of the disciple is 
subjected to the control of the guru. " The ordinary 
mahants are not men of great learning, though they 
have usually committed to memory a certain number of 
sayings attributed to Kablr, and possibly also some 
book of which they have managed to secure a copy. 
Want of learning is in some sort atoned for in the opinion 
of their followers by a detailed knowledge of the ritual to 
be observed in the performance of religious ceremonies. 
The more learned mahants have some knowledge of 
Tulsi Das's Ramayan and of the Bhagavad Grta. " * 

In the great sects the guru is worshipped as a god. 
The dust of his feet is believed to convey spirituality, and 
the water in which he has washed his feet is drunk by 
disciples as a nectar for the soul 

Besides the travelling gurus there are a number 
of famous poets and teachers who are reverenced by 

1 Westcott, Kabir and the Kalnr Panth, p. 120. 


the Chamars, and counted as gurus in a much higher 
sense. Among these are Valmlki, the low-caste author 
of the Ramayana ; Tulsl Das, the author of the 
modern popular Ramayan ; Sur Das, the blind poet 
of Agra, who put into poetical form the legends of 
Krishna; Narad, after whom one of the Puranas is 
named, and who is connected with the legends about the 
birth of Krishna ; Kali Das, the great poet of the fifth 1 
century of our era; and Vyasa, the reputed sage and 
author. Still others, the founders of those sectarian 
movements which have gained lodgment amongst the 
Chamars, are worshipped as gurus. In these guru-worship- 
ping sects we find the highest types of religious life that 
prevail in the caste. 

The movement which Ramanuja started in South 
India was carried into Northern India by his great dis- 
ciple Ramananda. He brought with him the conception 
of God as a person who cares for all men and who rewards 
their devotion. He also spread the revolt against caste- 
exclusion, insisting that men of low caste, and even the 
" untouchables/' are capable of spiritual religion (bhakti). 
He, who himself had been outcasted for the supposed 
violation of the strict rules of commensality, became the 
missionary of popular Vaishnavism in all Northern India, 
preaching the worship of Vishnu under the name of Rama. 

Perhaps the greatest of Ramananda's disciples was 
Kablr. 2 He grew up in the home of a Mohammedan 
weaver (Julaha), but he came under the influence of 
Ramananda, and afterwards became his disciple. Through 
Kablr Mohammedan elements were brought into the 
theistic movement, and by him the process of emancipa- 
tion from the strictness of Hindu thought and caste were 
carried much further than they had been by Ramananda. 
The real importance of Kablr rests in the enormous 
influence which he has exercised upon subsequent reli- 
gious thinking, specially as it has affected the masses, 

1 Ryder, Kalidasa, Translations of Shakuntala, &c., Introduction. 

* See Monier-Williams, Drahmanism and Hinduism, pp. 158 ff; 
Westcott, Kablr and the Kablr Panth ; Ahmad Shah, The Bijak of 


because of his use of the vernacular. His attitude 
towards caste drew to himself a large following from 
the lower levels of society. He left twelve distin- 
guished disciples, nearly all of whom were of low- 
caste origin, and each of whom founded " an independent 
order. The Satnamls, the Dadu Panthls, the Siv Narayans, 
and the Maluk Dasls trace their origin to Kabir, or to his 
teaching and influence. Nanak, Sur Das, ajid Tulsl Das 
owe much to him ; and a large part of the Adi Granth is 
his. His influence is by no means confined to these 
limits, but these are the names with which this chapter is 
immediately concerned. 

Kabir died at Maghar, in Gorakhpur, at an advanced 
age. Hindus and Mohammedans claimed his body. The 
disputants were about to resort to blows, when an aged 
man appeared at whose command they lifted the sheet 
which covered the body. There they found nothing but 
flowers. These they divided. The Mohammedans took 
half and buried them at Maghar. The Hindus carried 
the remainder of the flowers to Benares, where they 
burned them, and then buried the ashes at the Kabir 

The teachings of Kabir are found in the Bijak, the Sukh 
Nidhdn, and the Adi Granth. To-day the Bljak is 
one of the most popular literary collections in Northern 
India. " His best hymns are probably the loftiest works 
in the Hindustani language, and hundreds of his briefer 
utterances have laid hold of the common heart of 
Hindustan/' In 1901 the Kabir Panthls numbered 
850,000, of whom 500,000 were found in the Central 
Provinces. In 1911 there were 600,000 in the Central 
Provinces. This great following now stands midway 
between idolatry and monotheism. Kabir Panthls are 
better known in the Ganges valley and in the Central 
Provinces than in the Punjab. They are largely recruited 
from the Chamars and the Julahas. Nowadays the 
members of the sect are divided on caste lines, which 
are not broken except in the presence of the chief guru 
on the anniversary of the birth of Kabir, and amongst the 
lower castes of the sect. " All who desire to become 


members of the Panth are required to renounce polytheism 
and to acknowledge their belief in one only God (Parame- 
shwar). They must also promise to eat no meat and 
drink no wine ; to bathe daily and to sing hymns to God 
both morning and evening ; to forgive those who trespass 
against them up to three times ; to avoid the company of 
all women of bad character, and all unseemly jesting in 
connection with many subjects ; never to turn away from 
their houses their lawful wife ; never to tell lies ; never to 
conceal the property of another man ; and never to bear 
false witness against a neighbour, or speak evil of another 
on hearsay evidence/' 1 

Members who renounce the world and attach them- 
selves permanently to the monasteries belonging to the order 
are called bairagis. Women as well as men may become 

The Kablr Panthls of Northern and Central India are 
divided into two branches, with headquarters at Benares, 
with a branch at Maghar, and at Kawardha and Damakheda 
in the Central Provinces. The monasteries at these 
places are in charge of mahants. Under these there are 
a number of branch establishments, also under mahants. 2 

The travelling gurus, or mahants, are recruited from 
various castes, and usually serve those from whose caste 
they have come. 

Another great leader whose influence has been 
profoundly felt by the Chamar was Nanak, 3 the founder 
of the Sikh movement. Both Nanak and his successors 
are counted as gurus. The great guru, however, after 
Kablr is Nanak. He belongs to the movement that 
produced Kablr. He was a great traveller, who taught 
by means of hymns and aphorisms. In his earliest years 
he showed wonderful precocity in the acquisition of 
knowledge. Later he refused wealth in order to become 

1 Westcott, Kablr and the Kablr Panth, pp. 112, 113. 

a For a detailed account of the Panth see Westcott, Kablr and the 
Kablr Panth, Chapters V. and VI. 

8 See Monier-Williams, Brahmanism and Hinduism, pp. 161 ff.; 
Russell, The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, Vol. 
I. pp. 277 ff. ; Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion. Vol. I. pp. xl. ff. 


a religious mendicant. He too emphasized the teaching 
that men of all castes and races can know and love God. 
But his anti-caste principles were compromised somewhat 
by his admitting the lower castes on an inferior footing, 
and caste has found its way into the Sikh community. 

Nanak too emphasized the duty of obedience to reli- 
gious teachers. He revolted against ceremonial and social 
restrictions and priestcraft, though in no violent way. 
He did not go nearly as far in reform as Kablr did. He 
taught that God is neither Allah nor Parmeshwar, but the 
God of the whole universe, of all mankind, and of all 
religions. Although he spoke of God as personal, he also 
talked of him in terms which resemble the teaching of the 
Vedanta, and he was much closer to Hinduism than was 
Kabir. For Nanak salvation consisted in repentance and 
in true, righteous conduct, perfection being the end of a 
long process involving transmigration. He insisted upon a 
quiet but profound religious life, and tried to make it 

Amongst the Sikhs are found simhs> those who are 
distinguished by the five " K's," and who are consti- 
tuted by initiation. These are one of the later develop- 
ments of the Sikh movement. The ordinary Nanak 
Panthis, however, are distinguished by no peculiar 
customs, but they revere the Adi Granth as do other 
Sikhs. A section of Sikh Chamars is known as the Ram 
Dasls. These are often confused with the Rae Oasis. 

The two large followings of the Sikhs amongst the 
Chamars belong to these two classes: the Kablr Panth 
and the Nanak Panth. These Chamars with Sikh 
affinities are amongst the most enlightened groups in the 
caste, and with them idols and idolatry are almost un- 

One of the most noted of the followers of Ramananda 
was the Chamar, Rae Das, or Ravi Das. 1 A considerable 
amount of legendary matter has arisen concerning him, 

1 See Croolce, Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces 
and Oudh, Vol. II. pp. 185 ff. ; Rae Dasi Ki Bam, Belvedere Press, 
Allahabad, 1908; The Religious Sects of the Hindus (C.L.S.), p. 
57 i Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. VI. pp. 316 ff. 


and in some legends an effort is made to give him a 
respectable ancestry. In one account he is represented as 
a Brahman reborn from the womb of a Chamari. The 
story goes that a Brahman disciple of Ramananda used 
daily to receive necessary alms from the houses of five 
Brahmans. This was cooked by his preceptor, and offered 
to the Creator before being eaten. One day, on account 
of rain, the Brahmachari accepted supplies from a Baniya. 
When Ramananda had cooked the food, the Divine Light 
refused to accept it, because it was unclean. Inquiries 
revealed the fact that the Baniya had money dealings with 
the Chamars, and that the food was in consequence 
defiled. Ramananda in anger commanded that the disciple 
be reborn from the womb of a Chamari. When the infant 
was born, remembering his past life, he refused to suck 
from the breast of his mother, because she had not been 
initiated into Ramananda's sect. She was still only a 
Chamari. Heaven commanded Ramananda to initiate the 
whole family and then the infant consented to be fed. 
The child was named Rae Das. 

At the age of eighteen this young Chamar began 
to worship a clay image of Ram and Jankl. His father, 
displeased with him, turned him out-of-doors. Rae Das 
set up in business as a shoemaker, and worshipped as before. 
He made a practice of giving shoes to all wandering asce- 
tics. One day, seeing his unusual asceticism, a wander- 
ing saint gave him a philosopher's stone. Rae Das paid 
no attention to it ; for he said, " God only is important, 
and to use his name is the only good. " But the saint 
touched his shoemaker's knife with the stone, and the knife 
turned to gold. The sadhu then left the stone in the 
thatch of Rae Das's house. Rae Das refused to use the 
stone. After thirteen months, Vishnu, disguised as a 
saint, returned, and seeing the stone still in the thatch, 
showered gold upon Rae Das. Still the shoemaker did 
not accept the offered wealth, for he was afraid of riches. 
Afterwards Krishna appeared to him in a dream, and said, 
" Use the gold for yourself or for God." Then Rae Das 
accepted the stone, built a magnificent temple, and estab- 
lished regular worship. Enraged Brahmans appealed to a 


Raja against him. Summoned before the king, Rae Das was 
commanded to exhibit his miraculous powers. He could per- 
form but one miracle. At his command the saligram would 
leave its place and come into his hands. The Brahmans 
could not do likewise. A Rani thereupon became his disciple. 
When she returned home from her pilgrimage to Benares, 
she gave a feast and invited Rae Das ; but the Brahmans, 
refusing to eat in the palace, took fresh grain into the 
garden and cooked it there. Then, while they were 
eating, suddenly they saw Rae Das sitting and eating 
between each two of them. They fell at his feet 
repentant. He then cut his skin, and showed them 
under it his Brahmanical thread, thus proving himself to 
have been a Brahman in his previous life. 

In another legend it is reported that a well-to-do man 
of good caste went to see the famous Rae Das. When 
he reached the dwelling-place of the guru, he saw a 
venerable Chamar with a group of shoemakers busy 
making shoes. After the interview with Rae Das, a 
Chamar brought, in a large shoe, water in which the feet 
of Rae Das had been washed, and each partook of it. 
The visitor received the nectar, but threw it over his head. 
Some of the water fell on his coat and dried there. 
When he returned home he took great pains to purify him- 
self from the contamination which had resulted from his 
intercourse with the Chamars. He gave the clothes which 
he had worn to a sweeper. The sweeper thereupon was 
transformed in a wonderful way. But the rich man 
became a leper. After much unsuccessful doctoring, he 
returned to Rae Das, with the hope of receiving more 
nectar (charanamrit). But he was disappointed. He 
then besought Rae Das to have mercy upon him, and, 
finally, his request was granted and he was cured of his 

Another legend, which has some distinctly Chamar 
characteristics about it, relates the origin of a lasting 
record of his unfaithfulness on one occasion. The story 
is that one day a cow died, and the owner came and 
asked Rae Das to remove it. He, with the help of God 
(Bhagwan), came and carried the carcass away. The 


flesh was divided, but Rae Das hid the heart in the 
ground. Afterwards when Bhagwan asked him if he had 
hidden any part of the carcass Rae Das answered, " No." 
Immediately there sprung up a new species of plantain 
whose flower took the form and colour of a heart. 

Another story has it, that once, in Benares, a Brahman 
used to make offerings to the Ganges for a certain warrior. 
One day this Brahman went to Rae Das's shop to buy a 
pair of shoes. While he was there he talked with Rae Das 
about the worship of the Ganges. Rae Das said to him, 
" I will give you this pair of shoes. Will you please offer 
this betel-nut to the Ganges for me ? " The Brahman 
put the nut in his pocket, and when he went to the 
Ganges again he made an offering for his warrior-friend, 
but forgot that which Rae Das had given him. When 
he was returning from the river, he thought of the betel 
and went back and threw it into the Ganges. But he 
saw that Ganga raised her hand from the river and received 
the offering. The Brahman perceived the meaning of 
this act on the part of Mother Ganges. 

Followers of Rae Das believe that at the age of one 
hundred and twenty years he reached Brampad, the state 
of bliss, and then disappeared in the flesh. He took his 
sayings (Bdni) with him. 

Rae Das, who was born at Benares late in the fifteenth 
century, came under the influence of the great Ramananda, 
and afterwards became the founder of a widespread 
religious movement. He was a monotheist, following the 
general lines of his master's teaching, and of even purer 
faith than Kabir. The influence of his teaching has been 
sufficiently great to give him the place of a teacher ( Brahma- 
charl) in the Bhaktd Mala (Lives of Vishnu Saints). 
Followers of Rae Das, amongst whom are a great many 
Chamars, are found all over the Provinces. Many Cha- 
mars prefer to be known as Rae Dasls. Members of the 
sect are very numerous in the Punjab also, especially in the 
Gurgaon, Rohtak, and Delhi Districts, where they are all 
Chamars. In those areas they have increased consider- 
ably in numbers during the last twenty years, In Gujrat 
they are known as Ravi D&sls, 


Rae Das taught that the soul differs from God only in 
that it is encumbered with a body. For him God was 
everything, and he gave himself over to passionate devotion 
to the Deity, believing that God is gracious to all and is 
accessible to persons of lowly birth. God alone can save 
a man from evil passions. His conceptions are based on 
the general principles that underlie the teachings of all the 

An important Unitarian sect, the Siv Narayanas 1 , owe 
much to the same sources that produced Rae Dasa's 
movement, and their opinions are somewhat similar to 
those of the older sect. The founder of this notable 
movement was iv Narayan, a Rajput who was born in 
the eastern part of the United Provinces. 

There were in the United Provinces, in 1901, 46,727 
adherents of this sect. Persons of any caste may join the 
Siv Narayanas, but Chamars, notably Jaiswars and 
Dusadhs, number many more than any other caste. Those 
who wish to become members of this religious body 
are brought to a sant, who teaches them the moral precepts 
of the order. Truth, abstinence from spirituous liquors, 
honesty, mercy and charity, even in look, are cardinal 
virtues of the sect. Polygamy is prohibited. Sectarian 
marks are not used, but conformity to the external 
observances of Hindus or Mohammedans, independently 
of religious rites, is recommended. Practice is often far 
below the level of their ideals, and Siv Narayanas of the 
lower orders are occasionally addicted to drunkenness. 

When a candidate wishes to affiliate himself with the 
order, he is first warned of the difficulties before him and 
is tested for a few days. If he is then approved, he is 
directed to bring a present, according to his means, to 
the Bljak (their sacred book). He then makes his choice 
of a guru, or sant, from amongst those who are present in the 
assembly. This sant, who sits with the scriptures opposite 
him, first makes in behalf of the candidate a sacrifice by 
burning camphor and dasol (ten kinds of perfumes). 
Then some camphor is burnt before the scriptures, and 

1 See Religious Sects of the Hindus (C.L.S.), p. 147. 



all present rub the smoke over their faces. The candidate 
then washes the big-toe of his teacher and drinks the 
water (charanamrit). Next, the sant whispers into his 
ear the formula .(mantra) of initiation. This mantra is 
concealed carefully from outsiders. The initiate now 
distributes sweets to the congregation. He is then 
considered a sant, or initiate, and receives a small book 
(parwdna), which he is permitted to study, and which 
serves as a pass of admission to future meetings. If he 
tose his parwana he may obtain another on payment of a 
small fee. The parwana contains a few teachings which 
will be most helpful to a man in his daily life, and the 
little book is valuable in the hour of death, for, if a sant 
die away from home, this book will be found upon his 
person, and his own sect-fellows will perform his funeral 

The title " bhagat," which is taken by some sants, 
simply implies that they are monotheists. In some parts 
of India the Jaiswar groom is known as " Bhagat Sais." 
Amongst other duties, the sant makes arrangements for 
funerals, for the processions and for the carrying of 
the body, and sings the funeral hymns and reads the 
scripture on the way to the grave. Those sants who 
have disciples are called gurus. Those who are well- 
informed become sadhus, or mahants, but still continue 
to be householders. They become a higher order of 
religious leaders, who direct services in the meeting- 
houses, make the sacrificial offerings and distribute the 
prasdd (the food of which the teacher has partaken). 

Their chief monasteries are found at Chandrawar, 
Bhelsari, and Sasra Bohadpur, in the Ballaja District, and 
at Ghazipur. Their meeting-houses are known as 
Dhamghar (House of Praise) and sometimes as Somghar 
(House of Meeting), or Girjaghar (Church). These are 
found in various places. In them are found usually pictures 
of the saints Gorakhnath, Rae Das, Kablr Das, Sur Das, 
and others. The chief object of interest in the Dhamghar 
is the scriptures, which are kept rolled up in a cloth on a 
table at the east. The scriptures are worshipped. They are 
carefully watched, and no one but members of their own 


congregation is allowed to read them. Meetings are 
held on Friday evenings, and any educated man (mahant) 
among them may read and expound passages from the 
Gurunydsa. After the mahant has finished his reading, 
he receives the contributions of the faithful. At these 
meetings there is music and singing, worship, reading 
from the Granthas, and instruction in the teachings of 
Siv Narayan. Men and women sit apart. Members 
are not allowed to eat meat or drink spirits before going 
to the weekly service, and in the Dhamghar they are not 
allowed to drink, but they may smoke gdmjd (hemp), 
bhathg (hemp-leaves) or tobacco there. A special meeting 
is held on the Basant Panchami, or fifth light half of 
Magh. A halwai is called in, who cooks some halwa 
(which is known as mohanbhog)m a large boiler (karhdo). 
This is first offered to Siv Narayan before the scriptures of 
the sect. Until this is done no Chamar i\ allowed to 
touch it. The explanation of this is that Siv Narayan 
was a Kshatri, and it would be defilement to him if any 
Chamar touched it before dedication ; and, besides this, 
many castes are represented at the feast. 

Siv Narayans claim that their sacred scriptures have 
existed for more than eleven hundred years, but that they 
were unintelligible until they were translated by an 
inspired sanyasi. The present recension is the work of 
the Rajput Siv Narayan of Ghazipur, who wrote in the 
first half of the eighteenth century. Their Granthas, or 
Scriptures, number sixteen, of which the most important 
are the Guranydsa and the Santvirdsa; the former consists 
of selections from the Puranas, and the latter is a treatise 
on morals. The Santvirdsa is read only at funerals, 
where it is recited from the moment of dissolution until 
the burial has been completed. The Guranydsa is read 
in their religious meetings. 

The teachings of the sect are of the same type as those 
of the other reforming Vaishnavite bodies ; but some 
claim that the movement owes much to Christian influ- 
ences. Some village Siv Narayans assert that they worship 
Jesus Christ under the name Dukhdran Guru, or "Trouble- 
Chasing Guru." Members of this sect are much more 


friendly towards Christianity and are more easy of access 
than orthodox Hindus. They claim to worship one God, 
of whom no attributes are predicated ; and they offer no 
worship, nor do they pay any regard whatever to any of the 
objects of Hindus or of Mohammendan veneration. 

Another noted founder of a sect was Dadu (Dadu 
Dayal JI) 1 , a cotton-cleaner of Ajmer. He was born at 
Ahmedabad, and lived at Sambhar and at Amber as well as 
at Ajmer. Dadu was rescued from a river as an infant 
and given to a Brahman who had begged the boon of a 
son from a holy man. It is said that when Dadu was 
eleven years old a sadhu came to him and offered to teach 
him, but Dadu did not recognize the man and allowed 
him to depart. Seven years later the holy man returned 
and led Dadu into the life of an ascetic. He became a 
man of such compassion that he was called Dadu the 
Merciful. Legends relate how he refused to return evil 
for evil. He became famous as a worker of miracles also. 
Though an ignorant man, he became a spiritual and social 
reformer. Tradition has it that he received command by 
revelation to become a religious leader. When he was 
about thirty years of age he went to Sambhar, where he 
lived for six years ; he then moved to Amber ; fourteen 
years later he began to travel ; and after ten years he died. 
Dadu did not die like ordinary men, but disappeared from 
the world in accordance with a message that he received 
from Heaven, and the place of his disappearance in the 
Rajputana hills is still shown. His followers believe that 
he was absorbed into Brahma. 

The sect is really an offshoot from the Sikh movement, 
and is sometimes said to be identical with the Nanak 
Panth. Dadu Panthls believe in the unity of God and 
worship him under the title " True God " (Sat Ram). 
Their worship is restricted to the repetition of the name 
" Ram" and of the name " Dadu Ram." Still, their God 
is of the impersonal Vedantic type. They believe in evil 
spirits. The worship of idols is forbidden ; but they 

1 See Religious Sects, of the Hindus (C.L.S.), P- 53; Dadu 
Dayal Ki Bam, Belvedere Press, Allahabad, 1914 ; Encyclopaedia 
of Religion and Ethics, Vol. IV. pp. 385 f. 


worship the Dddu Bdni and prostrate themselves before 
Dadu's sandals and old clothes. 

In earlier times they built no temples ; but now there 
are temples in which their sacred book is worshipped. They 
believe that perfect devotion results in union with the 
Deity ; but that imperfect devotion does not break the 
round of transmigration. Their chief place of worship is 
at Narana, nearJaipore. Here Dadu's bed is preserved and 
his books and clothes are kept. They now have a number 
of places (Dadudwara), which combine a monastery with 
a preaching-place, because the services in their meeting- 
houses are conducted by their sadhus. In the prayer-room 
is found a manuscript copy of the Bam. In worship lamps 
and flowers are used. There are two main divisions of the 
followers of Dadu, the sevaks and the sadhus. The 
former are householders and men of affairs, and they are 
not counted as true Dadu Panthis. They are allowed to 
read the Bam. The sadhus are divided into four orders. 
These sadhus are all celibates, and they may be either 
men or women. The most interesting of these sadhus are 
the Nagas, who serve as soldiers. The initiatory ceremony 
of their gurus is simple. Those of their sadhus who are 
able to learn are taught to read and are instructed in the 
tenets of the sect. They are also required to memorize 
the twenty-four guru mantras (which refer to the character 
of God), and the pancharati (which are used in the praise 
of God). They carry beads in their hands. The only, 
peculiarity in their mode of dress is a four-cornered or 
round white skull-cap with a flap hanging down behind. 
They do not use sectarian marks, nor do they wear 
rosaries, but they carry beads (sumarni) in their hands. 

The sacred books of the sect are the Dddu Bam, the 
Sukhyd Granth y and the Janam Lild. 

Many low-caste followers, including Chamars (some 
of whom are Balais), have been attracted to the move- 
ment through Garib Das, one of Dadu's disciples, but they 
are not admitted to the temples. Although Dadu thoroughly 
organized his movement, it is now on the decline. A few 
persons have recently withdrawn, under the name of 
Benami. They use no name in the worship of God. 


Among the lesser sects which have a following amongst 
the Chamars may be mentioned the Maluk Dasis, the 
Lalgiris, the Ghlsa Panthis, and the Ram Ramis. 
Maluk Das, 1 who was born at Kara and who died as Puri, 
lived during the time of Aurangzeb. He was probably a 
trader. A great deal of legendary material, praising the 
wonderful things that he did because of his great kindness 
and mercy, has been preserved. When he was a child of 
but five years playing in the streets, he collected the thorns 
out of the dust so that people might not step on them ; 
and while he was thus engaged, a great saint who happened 
to pass by prophesied that Maluk was destined for some 
great life, either that of a prince or of a saint. From 
his youth up he paid great attention to travelling teachers, 
and many stories are told concerning his care of wandering 
ascetics. At the age of ten or eleven years he was started 
in business with a wholesale dealer in blankets. He used 
to go into the country regularly to sell blankets, but he 
always gave to sadhus and to the poor what they asked. 
On one of his journeys, when he had made no sales and 
had met no beggars, he sat down under a nim tree late 
in the day to rest. His load was very heavy. A labourer 
came along and offered to carry the load for two pice. To 
this Maluk agreed, sent the coolie on ahead, and gave the 
blankets no further thought. When the porter brought 
the blankets Maluk's mother doubted his story, and on 
the pretext of giving him some food, led him into one of 
the rooms of the house and then locked the door. When 
Maluk reached home, his mother scolded him for his 
carelessness, and ordered him to count his blankets to 
make sure that none were missing. When Maluk opened 
the door of the room where the coolie had been shut 
up, he found that the man was gone. He had left 
behind a piece of bread, which Maluk received as 
prasad. He remarked to his mother that she had been 
very fortunate indeed to escape without a curse. He saw 
in that coolie a vision of God, and confessed that he had 

1 SceReligious Sects of the Hindus (C.L.S.)i p. 51 ; Bhattacharji, 
Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 446 ; Gsowse, Muttra, p. 230 ; Maluk Das 
KIBani, Belvedere Press, Allahabad. 


not known who the man was. So he entered the room 
where the coolie had been confined, and directed his 
mother not to disturb him until called her. After three 
days of meditation he had a vision, came out and saluted 
his mother. From that time he practised meditation, and 
his fame began to spread in all directions. Many began 
to come to see him, many spiritual blessings were obtained 
from him, and he began to exhibit miraculous powers. 
There are many legends which deal with his wonderful 
works. He started out one time to beseech Indra to give 
rain during a great famine, but one of his disciples made 
the great god so ashamed of himself that he gave 
the rain before Maluk reached the fields. Another 
legend, growing out of this, illustrates Maluk's simple- 
mindedness and humility. Later, Maluk was summoned 
by the Emperor to Dehli. He appeared before the ruler, 
having made the journey by the exercise of his miraculous 
powers. Several dishes of khichri were prepared for 
Maluk, but the first turned out to be an abomination ; 
the second one proved to be ashes, from which he raised 
such a dust-storm that it threatened to destroy the city, 
and it was only through the intercession of the emperor, 
and then only through Maluk's miraculous powers, that 
Dehli was saved. Maluk performed another miracle, 
in which he stood in the midst of a well without any 
support. The emperor was so impressed with Maluk's 
sainthood that he offered him gifts. His request was a 
simple one, which saved the officers who had been sent to 
bring Maluk, and one which convinced them also of his 
divine powers. One of the officers became a disciple of 
Maluk. Other miracles are recorded, such as his saving 
the workmen who had been buried by a falling house, 
and his bringing a milkwoman's son back to life. His 
days were filled with wonderful deeds. He died at the 
age of 108 at Puri. His tomb is at Kara, near Allahabad. 
On the day of his death he told his disciples that at noon 
they would hear the sound of a bell and of a horn in their 
hearts, and that this would indicate that he had died. He 
directed them not to burn his body but to consign it to 
the Ganges. The body floated down to Prayag-ghat 


(Allahabad). There it asked a ferryman for a drink and 
then sank. It next appeared at Kai (Benares). There 
it asked for water and pen and ink. With these it 
wrote, "I have reached Kai." It then sank again, 
and reappeared at Jagannath Puri. Jagannath JI 
showed his disciples, in a vision, a car (rathl) on the 
seashore, and ordered them to bring it and place it 
before his image. They did as he directed, and left the 
car before the image and retired. The temple doors 
thereupon closed of themselves. Then Maluk Das, who 
was in the car, requested a place to rest under the eaves 
of the temple and the refuse food from the temple. He 
(Maluk Das) received the scum from the cooked rice and 
dal for his bread and parings of vegetables as a karhi. 
Maluk Das's resting-place is still found at Jagannath Puri, 
and there " his " bread is still used and offered to pilgrims. 

Six months before he died he named his nephew as his 
successor. Although he was a householder, he founded a 
monastic order. Their principal monastery is at Kara, on 
the Ganges, Other monasteries are situated at Benares, 
Allahabad, Lucknow, Ajudhya, Brinbaban, Patna, 
Jaipur and Puri. Still others are found in Gujrat, Multan, 
Nepal and Afghanistan. His followers hold no distinctive 
teachings, being members of one of the Slta-Ram worship- 
ping sects which sprang from Ramananda, but they take 
Maluk Das as their guru. Their sectarian mark is a 
single red line on the forehead. Most Maluk Dasls are 

Maluk is said to have written a Hindi poem, the 
Dasratha, and a few short Sakhls and Padas, but none of 
these have been published. 

In the earlier part of the nineteenth century a Chamar, 
Lalglr 1 by name, founded a sect; known as the Lalgir 
Panthls, or Alakgiris. His home was in Bikaneer. Accord- 
ing to Lalglr's teachings men should forsake idolatry, 
practise charity, avoid taking life, abstain from the eating of 
meat, and practise asceticism. He denied the possibility 
of a future life, taught that heaven and hell are within, 

1 See Sherring, Hindu Tribes and Castes, Vol. III. p. 62. 


and insisted that all ends with the dissolution of the body. 
He held that the ends for which a man should practise 
virtue are peace in life and a good name after death. The 
sole worship of the sect consists in calling upon the 
incomprehensible God, " Alakh, Alakh," and it is from 
this practice that the sect is sometimes named. 

Ghisa, a Jat, 1 was born at Kekra in the Meerut Dis- 
trict about the middle of the nineteenth century, and died 
about twenty years ago. (Some put him a little earlier.) 
He began as a worshipper of Kabir. Later he attracted to 
himself a considerable following, chiefly Chamars and 
Julahas, and formed an independent sect. He forbade 
animal sacrifices and idolatry. His followers are called 
sddhs y and they wear a rosary of Kathwood beads. Once 
a year Ghisa Panthis visit their gurus, bringing gifts, and 
have a feast. The sayings of Ghisa have not been reduced 
to writing. His teachings do not differ from those of 

Kalu Baba, or Kalu Kahar, or Kalu BIr, was the 
founder of a sect amongst whose members are some 
Chamars. He discovered, by accident, that being a sadhu 
was more remunerative than following his usual avocation. 
His followers have much the same beliefs as the Sikhs; 
but they are at the same time worshippers of Krishna and 
devotees of Siva. They reverence the Grantha. Kalu 
is sometimes spoken of as a low-caste godling worshipped 
by Chamars and others of low degree. 

The Ram Ramls are a small group of Chamars who 
organized about thirty years ago. They are found chiefly 
on the south side of the Mahanadl, in the Central Pro- 
vinces. They carry a flute, put peacock feathers around 
their caps, and cry out " Ram, Ram." They mean always 
to keep Ram in mind. Their most distinguishing charac- 
teristic is that they have the couplet " Ram, Ram " tattooed 
all over their bodies. 

The Satnaml movements have their rise in teachings of 
Kabir. The word means the " True Name M and indicates 

1 Another report has it that he was a weaver. See Census Report, 
Punjab, 1911, p. 144. 


that they worship the One Reality under this title. 
The first-known movement bearing this name appeared in 
the seventeenth century at Nacntfl, seventy-five miles south- 
west of Delhi. The sect had a reputation for esoteric 
doctrines, and for uncleanness in morals and in eating. 
They came into conflict with the Government of Aurangzeb, 
and were sanguinarily overwhelmed in 1673. * 

A sect by the same name (Satnami) appeared in the 
next century, but there is no evidence to show that it was 
a revival of the earlier movement. Its founder was JagjI- 
wan Das, 2 a Thakur, born in a village not far from Luck- 
now. His father was a farmer. From childhood he 
showed an interest in higher things and he associated much 
with sadhus. One day a most holy faqir, Bulla Sahib, in 
company with a still more holy man, Govind Sahib, stopped 
where Jagjiwan was grazing cattle. He hastened to 
fulfil the request for fire for their pipes (chilam) and at the 
same time brought milk for them to drink, although he 
was afraid that his father would punish him. Bulla, the 
saint, read his thoughts, and comforted him, saying that 
there would be no less milk but more at home, in spite of 
his having brought some for them. And, sure enough, 
when Jagjiwan Das went home, he found all the pans full 
to overflowing. He then ran after the saints and begged 
to be accepted as a disciple and to be initiated. Through 
the compassion of Govind Sahib he was transformed into 
a man of deep love and austerity. Bulla then stated that 
the object of their visit was to arouse Jagjiwan Das, who, 
he said, was, in a previous life, an ascetic of renown. The 
sadhu prophesied that ere long Jagjiwan would become an 
expert recluse (purd jog). Jagjiwan asked for a sign to 
prove that this holy man spoke truth. Thereupon Bulla 

1 See J. N. Sirkar in The Modern Review, 1916, p. 385. 

* Oudh Gazetteer (1877), Vol. I. pp. 361 ff ; Russell, The Tribes 
and Castes of the Central Provincies of India, Vol. I. pp. 307 ff; Reli- 
gious Sects of the Hindus (C.L.S.) pp. 146, 147 ; Indian Antiquary, 
VIII. pp. 289 ff : Prasadh, Jaegwan Das Ki Bani, pp. 1-5 ; Crooke, 
Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Vol IV. 
pp. 299 ff ; Prasadh, Samtbani Sarhgraha, Vol. I. p. 117 ; Macauliffe, 
The Sikh Religion, Vol. I. pp. xlvii, xlviii ; Grierson, Modern 
Vernacular Literature of Hindustan, p. 87. 


Sahib took from his pipe a blue thread, and Govind Sahib 
from his a white thread, and these they bound on Jagjlwan's 
right wrist. (This is still the sign of the Satnami and is 
called Amdii.) 

Jagjlwan then gave up all worldly cares and applied 
himself to study and devotion. Presently people began to 
come from a distance to see him. Thereupon a persecu- 
tion arose, and he left his native village and took up his 
abode at Kotwa. The chief seat of his sect is still at this 
village, and here an annual fair is held. He was reported 
to have performed many miracles, one of the most famous 
of which was that connected with the marriage of his 
daughter to the son of Raja Gonda. When the Raja 
refused to partake of the wedding-feast unless flesh was 
served, Jagjlwan Das created the egg-plant and this was 
eaten as meat. For this reason his followers still tabu that 
vegetable as convertible into flesh. He died in 1761. 

Jagjiwan Das preached the worship of God under the 
name " Sat Nam, " and taught that the Deity is both 
cause and creator of all things, but conceived of him in 
popular Vedantic terms. His followers prohibit the use 
of meat, red dal (masur kl dal), egg-plant, and intoxicat- 
ing liquors. Satnamis do not worship idols ; but they do 
worship Hanuman, and pay reverence to what they consider 
manifestations of the nature of God visible in avatars, parti- 
cularly in Rama and in Krishna. They observe most of the 
Hindu festivals, and honour the family and caste customs of 
the members of their sect. Jagjiwan Das urged that men 
should practise absolute indifference to the world, that 
they should be dependent upon no one, and that they 
should practise implicit obedience to the guru. They are 
said to practise the horrible rite of drinking a mixture of 
human secretions and excreta (gayatrl kriya). They enjoin 
tolerance, charity, consideration for others, prayer, study, 
and kindness to animals. 

Jagjlwan Das was, as noted above, a householder. The 
sect has a superior order of mahants, some of whom are of 
low-caste orgin. Through a Kori (weaver) disciple many 
Chamars and others of low caste were brought into the 


The principal works of this guru, written in Hindi, are 
the Agh Binds, the Gydn Prakdsh, the Mohdpralaya, and 
the Pratham Grantha. 

The Satnami movement was carried from Oudh into 
the Central Provinces by Ghasi Das, a Chamar, and there 
it has produced notable results. Ghasi Das carried on his 
great work during the decade 1820-1830. He was undoubt- 
edly indebted to Jagjiwan Das, for the teachings of the 
two men are well-nigh identical. 

Ghasi Das was born in poverty at Girod, in the Central 
Provinces. As a man he took to the life of a pilgrim ; 
later, he abandoned pilgrimage and began an ascetic life, 
and from that time retired to the forest regularly for medi- 
tation. The rocky hillock near his native village, to which 
he repaired, is still a place of pilgrimage. His reputation 
as a man of supernatural powers grew, and miracles were 
reported from his place of retirement. Finally, he emerged 
from the forest with his gospel to the Chamars. It was 
in substance the message of Jagjiwan Das. " Ghasi Das, 
like the rest of his community, was unlettered. He was a 
man of unusually fair complexion and rather imposing 
appearance, sensitive, silent, given to seeing visions, and 
deeply resented of the harsh treatment of his brotherhood 
by the Hindus. He was well known to the whole com- 
munity, having travelled much among them ; and had the 
reputation of being exceptionally sagacious, and was 
universally respected. " * 

Ghasi Das died at the age of eighty years and was suc- 
ceeded in office by his son Balak Das. The latter, how- 
ever, managed things badly, and was assassinated in 1860. 
Since then the family has fallen upon evil times. 

A division has occurred in the movement over the use 
of tobacco, and those who smoke use a leaf-chilam and not 
a huqqa. 

Satnamls worship the Sun, morning and evening, as 
representing the deity, crying out, " Lord, protect us ! " 
Otherwise they have no visible sign or representation of 
the Supreme Being. They are opposed to idolatry, and are 

1 Chisholm, Bilaspur Settlement Report, 1888, p. 45. 


enjoined to cast all idols from their homes. Theoretically, 
they have no temples, no public religious service, no creed 
and no form of devotion. They simply call upon the name 
of God and ask his blessing. They, however, do have 
temples, and they recognize the whole Hindu pantheon, 
especially revering the Rama and Krishna incarnations of 

They profess to set aside caste and to receive all 
men as equals, but they do not admit into their com- 
munity members of those castes which they regard 
as inferior to their own. The sect is practically a 
Chamar sub-caste. A Satnami is put out of caste 
if he is beaten by a man of another caste, however 
high, or if he is touched by a sweeper. Their women 
wear nose-rings, although Hindu law forbids it. They do 
not usually accept cooked food from the hands of others, 
whether Hindus or Mohammedans. With them two 
months are tabu for weddings, August (Shrawan) and 
January (Pus). An initiatory practice connected with 
marriage has already been described. It was carried out 
within three years of the wedding and after the birth of the 
first son. 

The Satnami movement is of considerable importance 
as a social revolt on the part of the Chamars. As an 
economic and social struggle upwards it has met with a 
large measure of success. The history of the sect illus- 
trates also how a theistic propaganda can live and trans- 
form a whole community. 

There were, in 1911, 460,280 Satnamis in the Central 
Province, the number having increased about fifteen per 
cent, since the census of 1901. 



ONE of the outstanding facts about the Chamars is 
their lamentable and abject poverty. Ill-clad and cold in 
winter, badly housed, and insufficiently fed, they belong 
to the poorest of the land. While there are some well-to- 
do persons amongst them, and a few who are moderately 
rich, the great mass of the Chamars lead a wretched 
existence. Not more than one family in fifteen has any 
form of fixed tenure, and that only on small holdings. In 
many instances the hovels in which they live are repaired by 
the landlord, so that the Chamar may not acquire any 
claim upon the property. To begin with, they are greatly 
in debt on account of loans both for the purchase of 
raw materials with which to carry on their traditional 
occupation and for seed and for cattle for their agri- 
cultural enterprises. Rates of interest are exceedingly 
high, being from twenty-four to forty-eight per cent, on 
larger loans, and seventy-five on petty loans. In most 
cases their obligations are such as to keep them in 
perpetual bondage to their creditors ; and as a consequence, 
they are never able to rise above the lowest economic 
level. In many instances the whole family is engaged in 
satisfying the insatiable demands of the zamindar or some 
other creditor. Many shoemakers in the neighbourhood 
of Delhi, for example, are so completely in the hands of 
the dealers of that city that they get but the barest living 
out of their hard toil. This economic condition suggests 
one important line of relief : the introduction of co- 
operative credit. 

Another contributing cause to their poverty is the 
pernicious system of begar. Chamars live at the beck and 


call of others, and are obliged to do a great deal of work 
for which they receive no pay whatever. This is but a 
phase of the general condition of depression in which they 
live. They have been so conquered and broken by 
centuries of oppression that they have but little self- 
respect left and no ambition. Their condition is in reality 
serfdom, and at times they are sore oppressed. The begar 
system is firmly entrenched in the rural life of the country 
and can be broken down only by persistent and well- 
directed agitation. The old order must give way, even 
though the necessary substitute may be difficult to suggest. 
Their employers and the leaders of the Indian community 
bring social and even physical pressure upon them at times. 
Those who depend upon them for labour are slow to 
encourage any movement which brings to the Chamars an 
opportunity for advancement. They live on the land of 
others, and must bear without complaint oppression, in- 
justice, and fraud. The solution of the problem which 
they present must lie in the bringing of economic help to 
them in the way of opportunity and encouragement, and 
in kindling in them a spirit of hope. 

Another cause of their poverty is ignorance. Until 
their mental life is stimulated to the point where they 
begin to feel some sense of independence and desire for 
better things they will be held under the iron heel of those 
who exploit the poor. 

A further cause of poverty is vice and excess. In- 
temperance is widespread, The Chamars are notorious 
drunkards and to drunkenness both men and women are 
addicted. Liquor has an important place in much of the 
domestic ritual. There is very little attempt to remove this 
evil. The only limit set upon it seems to be the income 
of the man or his family. Ganja (hemp for smoking), 
charas (hemp for smoking), bhang (hemp for drinking), 
and opium and madak (prepared from opium) are exten- 
sively used. Gambling is rife not only at Dewali time, 
but constantly. The Holi is an opportunity for excesses 
of all kinds. Children are not exempt from these evils. 

One more contributing cause to the poverty of the 
Chamars is overcrowding on the land. For this reason a 


movement towards the large centres of industry must be 
encouraged. While it is important that improved indus- 
trial and agricultural methods be carried to the villages, 
it is also necessary that many be attracted to centres 
where instruction in industry and agriculture may be 
obtained. Such trained persons will very rarely return to 
take a place in the village economic life, but they will 
swell tbe ranks of organized industry and will help to re- 
organize agricultural and economic life. At the same time 
there will result increased demand for labour, and this 
in turn will raise wages and improve the general efficiency 
of those who are left to carry on agriculture. The move- 
ment to the cities has already set in and its effects upon 
the rural demand for unskilled labour are becoming more 
and more noticeable. 

Seventy-eight per cent, of the Chamars are engaged 
in farm work. Here again they are found in the most 
wretched economic state. For the most part they are 
paid in kind, and there are few inducements offered to 
them to secure good crops. Moreover they are poor culti- 
vators, and consequently obtain only the poorest portions 
of the land for farm purposes. While a considerable 
number will move to industrial centres, the great mass of 
Chamars will remain on the land. Advancement lies in 
their being taught better methods of agriculture. More- 
over, these improved methods must be brought to them. 
They are far too numerous a caste to be sent into agricul- 
tural schools for training, and, besides, they could not be 
spared in any considerable numbers for such a purpose. 
Simple demonstrations that could not fail to convince the 
Chamars of the better economic values of modern methods 
of agriculture must be the means employed to introduce 
new methods. 

Another cause of their poverty lies in the fact that the 
indigenous manufacture of leather is still in an undeveloped 
state as an industry, and that the output is of very inferior 
quality. For a long period before the Mohammedans began 
to rule, and even down to the persent time, the rural in- 
dustry has depended upon an inferior grade of raw materials, 
the skins of animals dying of disease or from starvation. 


In addition to this, branding and injury ruin large 
numbers of hides. At present, with the marked rise in 
values, hides and skins, except those of the very poorest 
quality, are becoming more and more difficult for the 
Chamar to obtain. Added to this, lack of capital makes it 
impossible for the village tanner to make good leather. 
Good tanning requires time and that in turn requires 
money. The result is that the rural tanner, using anti- 
quated and inferior methods, produces out of poor raw 
materials a very inferior grade of leather. The outstanding 
defects in the village process are over-liming, the use 
of antiquated tools for fleshing and removing the hair, 
insufficient attention to bating, the hurrying of the process 
of tanning, and little attempt at currying. With the rise 
of the large-scale tanning industry in certain large centres, 
the village tanner's enterprise is being reduced to smaller 
dimensions. There is little likelihood that the rural 
industry will survive. 1 In this connection it is interesting 
to note that during the decade ending in 1911 there was 
a very marked decrease (36.9 per cent. 2 ) in the number 
engaged in tanning, currying, dressing, and dyeing leather. 
At the same time the Chamar population increased. 
Furthermore one of the results of the war has been a 
very great advance in large-scale tanning. The demand 
for village tanned leather is gradually being reduced to 
that of water-buckets and thongs. The former will be 
supplied more and more from chrome tanned leather, 
which is not a rural product at all, and finally, cheaper 
fabrics made from vegetable fibres will supplant leather for 
irrigation purposes. Slowly factory tanned leather will 
supplant village tanned leather in the village shoemaking 

Before the war raw hides were exported from the 
United Provinces in large numbers. 8 In 1914-15, the 
exports of dressed or tanned skins amounted to only fifteen 
thousand rupees ; while that of raw hides and skins 

1 Indian Industrial Commission Report, 1918, p. 36. 

8 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 424. 

8 Report of the Director of Industries, United Provinces, 1916, p. 4 



amounted to 1,84,50,000 rupees. Probably half the hides 
and nine-tenths of the skins available in India were ex- 
ported. Not only have those exports risen to enormous 
proportions in recent years, but the values have likewise 
increased. The total value of exported raw hides and skins 
was 7,82,00,000 rupees in 1914-15 and 14,41,00,000 rupees 
in 1916-17. During the same years the values of exported 
leather and of tanned hides and skins were 4,76,00,000 
and 9,44,00,000 rupees respectively. The total values of 
these exports were 12,58,00,000 and 23,85,00,000 rupees 
in 1914-15 and in 1916-17 respectively. 1 

During the war the amount of half-tanned leather 
exported from the United Provinces increased from below 
200,000 hundredweight, valued at less than 2,00,00,000 
of rupees to 360,000 hundredweight, valued at nearly 
5,00,00,000 rupees in 1917-18. Roughly speaking, in 
four years the output of the Indian tanneries for this 
class of leather only has been doubled. 2 In all probability 
the enormous demand for hides and leather due to the 
effects of the war on stocks of cattle in Europe will turn 
to India's advantage. With the development of tanning 
materials and the application of technical skill and expert 
direction to the manufacture of leather in India, there 
will be a large increase in the tanning industry in manu- 
facturing centres. For this new development the 
Chamar is indispensable. But this new stimulus to enter- 
prise will tend to further supplant the village tanner. 
The development of this industry involves the training of 
large numbers of Chamars. This suggests one of the 
lines along which work for the economic uplift of the 
Chamars must develop. 

There were in 1911, in the United Provinces, all at 
Cawnpore, three tanneries and ten leather factories. Not 
one of the latter was managed by a Chamar. 3 

While the number engaged in the tanning of leather 
decreased very materially during the decade ending in 

1 Appendix D, Indian Industrial Commission, p. 54. 

2 Appendix D, p. 58. 

9 Census Tables, United Provinces, 1911, pp. 720, 736. 


1911, there was an increase of 33.2 per cent. 1 in the 
number engaged in the manufacture of boots, shoes and 
sandals. The Indian demand for boots, shoes and 
sandals is on the increase, and this phase of the Chamar's 
traditional occupation offers increasing opportunities. At 
present the native patterns of ornarriented shoes are dis- 
appearing and shoes on foreign models are coming largely 
into vogue. The great cities are the centres of this 
industry. But shoes after the country models are manu- 
factured in almost every village in the country. Here also 
there is great need for the introduction of better tools and 
modern methods of manufacture. And a growing field for 
demonstration work and industrial education here presents 

There were in 1911, in the United Provinces, four 
boot and shoe factories, one in Allahabad, two in Cawn- 
pore, and one in Farukkhabad, not one of which was 
owned or managed by Chamars or Mochis. 2 

The demand for other kinds of leather articles gives 
promise of still further developments in the leather industry. 
Belting, roller skins, picker bands, and raw hide pickers 
will be required in increasing numbers with the rapid 
industrial development of the country. Already a begin- 
ning has been made in supplying these products in India. 
There seems to be little doubt that, now that the war is 
over, new tanneries will be started, and their fate will largely 
depend upon the quality of the leather which they turn 
out. Here Government can render valuable assistance 
by assuming to a large extent responsibility for the techno 
logical investigations which have been indicated. Success 
will result in an improvement of the industry all along the 
line, beginning with a decrease of waste in rural areas and 
the diversion of the hides used by the village tanners to 
modern tanneries, in which a better class of leather will 
be produced. There will obviously be an increase in the 
amount of visible raw material ; but whether this will be 
sufficient to meet the growing requirements of the country 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 425. 

* Census Tables, United Provinces, 1911, pp. 728, 740, 


is a matter on which no definite opinion can be expressed. 
The general improvement of the technique in tanning 
will lead to an increase in the exports of finished leather 
and to a corresponding decrease in the exports of hides. 1 

These conclusions suggest, for those who are especially 
interested in the Chamars, that they may take advantage 
of facilities offered through Government for the training 
of men in various phases of work in leather. 

In all industrial development there must be a safe- 
guarding of the Chamars' interests. This must be done 
through legislation which will protect the Chamars from 
overcrowding in the growing manufacturing cities, and 
by framing laws fixing reasonable hours and liberal wages 
for the labourers. Such legislation is dependent upon 
organized effort on the part of those who champion the 
cause of the Chamars. 

Education amongst the Chamars is exceedingly back- 
ward. Below is a table of literacy based upon the Census 
Report of the United Provinces for 1911. 2 Along with 
the figures for the Chamars those from the population of 
the Provinces as a whole are inserted. 

Number of persons literate per thousand : 

Total Male Female 

(1) Chamar (agricultural) ..1 2 (.2) 

(2) Population as a whole" ..34 61 5 

The number of Chamar children in primary schools per 
thousand males is .3, and per ten thousand females is .1. 
In 1917, there were 4,600 Chamars undergoing education 
in the United Provinces. 4 These tables give a very in- 
adequate impression of the ignorance that prevails. A 
more detailed statement showing both the literates and the 
illiterates in this caste is as follows : B 

Chamar pop. dealt with Literate Illiterate Literate in English 

Total 6,068,382 .. 6,794 6,061,588 215 

Male 3,099,321 .. 6,274 3,093,074 214 

Female 2,969,061 .. 520 2,968,541 1 

1 Appendix D., Indian Industrial Commission, pp. 64, 65. 

2 p. 273. 8 p. 268. 

* General Report on Public Instruction in the United Provinces 
and Oudh for the Quinquennium Ending 31st March, 1917 , p. 94. 
8 Census Tables, United Provinces, 1911, Table IX., p. 154. 


A still more definite impression is given by another 
table : 

The illiterates per thousand are: 1 

Total Male Female 

Chamars (agricultural) 999 998 (1,000) 

Ignorance is more deeply seated than the mere inability 
to read or write. For generations Chamars have been, and 
they still are, out of touch with even the best light that 
the village possesses and their mind is almost inert. These 
conditions are but barely improved in some areas where 
education has long been emphasized. 

The public schools are virtually closed to the Chamars. 
Both teachers and pupils in the schools make it most 
difficult for low-caste boys to sit in the class-rooms. The 
result is that boys of the lower castes are not found in any 
numbers in the schools. A typical case may be cited. In 
a school enrolment of 12,651 in a certain District there 
was, in 1909-10, not a single Chamar. 2 Conditions are 
not much changed yet. Schools are now being established 
for the class to which the Chamars belong, and Gov- 
ernment is encouraging the opening of such schools by 
District Boards. Besides this, efforts are being made to 
set aside special educational officers for schools for the 
depressed classes. Moreover, various Hindu organizations 
are trying to carry on primary schools amongst these 
classes. Still, up to the present time practically the only 
opportunities for learning to read and write are supplied 
by Christian agencies. 

Besides the lack of educational facilities and their 
intellectual inertness, the environment in which the 
Chamars live is unfavourable to their advancement. 
Their neighbours, who largely control their time, are not 
interested in enabling them to attend school with any 
regularity. The feeling is widespread that an ignorant 
Chamar is the only useful Chamar. Enlightenment in 
the least degree brings with it (so it is held) a certain 

1 Census Report, United Provinces, 1911, p. 273. 

2 Bijore District, United Provinces, Letter from Deputy Inspector 
of Schools, March 18, 1911. 


sense of personal importance and the desire to be free ; 
and all this is contrary to the spirit of their environment. 
The intellectual uplift of this great caste is a tremendous 
problem, but one of the greatest importance in the 
advancement of the whole country. Every eighth man in 
the United Provinces is a Chamar. This fact illustrates 
both the weight of the ignorance that oppresses the land 
and the possibilities for social and political advancement 
which lie in the uplift of this depressed group. In this day of 
emphasis and expansion in primary education the Chamars 
offer one of the most wide and needy fields for cultivation. 

Most important is the question, " What shall the 
Chamars be taught ? " Of course they must learn to 
read, write and cipher. This must be accomplished 
through day schools conducted at such times as pupils can 
be spared from their regular tasks, and by means of night 
schools for adults. But it is equally important that they 
receive instruction that will open their minds to moral 
and religious truth that has in it the power to emancipate 
them from superstition and fear and the spirit of servitude. 
Furthermore, since an effective intellectual and religious 
development cannot be based upon poverty, the educa- 
tional programme must include instruction in improved 
methods of industry and agriculture. And since the 
men who go away from their villages to learn something 
new rarely return to join in the village industrial or agri- 
cultural life, such training must be brought to them 
in their village environment. Improved methods of 
tanning, of making shoes, of weaving, and of cultivation 
must be brought to them by means of demonstration work. 
Already Government is busy with plans for these kinds of 
simple instruction and is also applying these methods in a 
few places. Such forms of instruction must become part 
of the curriculum in all schools which aim at the elevation 
of the Chamars ; and the agencies which will develop with 
vigour and foresight such forms of educational endeavour 
will have the greatest degree of access to the caste. 

The Chamar holds a place very low in the social scale. 
He belongs to the " untouchables." This is due partly to 
ignorance, more to his poverty, and still more to his being 


a subject caste. The long history of conquest may be 
read here ; and here also the fact that those who are 
oppressed are always despised is amply proved. 

But the sense of disgust which he arouses is due also 
to his traditional occupation. His name associates him 
with dead animals. But to the ordinary Indian a dead 
animal suggests not only a skinner, but also a group of 
Chamars, men and women, dividing and portioning out 
the carcass and preparing for a feast. 

Furthermore, they eat the leavings of food of most 
castes. This also is an abomination. 

Added to all this is the unclean condition of the places 
where they live. Their tanning vats are just outside of 
their houses, and their part of the village is a place of all 
sorts of abominable smells. Sanitary laws are wholly 
ignored. They are unspeakably filthy in their habits. 
Their persons, their clothing, their houses and their sur- 
roundings are utterly unclean. The Chamrauti is a 
synonym of all that is unclean and disgusting. A further 
abomination is the fact that the Chamari is the recognized 
midwife of the community (with local exceptions). The 
word Chamari is sometimes used as a synonym for mid- 
wife. Her offices are considered as exceedingly polluting. 
So the Chamar's quarter of the village is a place to be 
avoided, and Chamars are too unclean to enjoy any of the 
social or religious privileges of the Hindu community. 
Even in bathing in the Ganges they must find a place far 
below that used by other people. In Madras the leather 
worker pollutes at a distance of twenty-four feet. Con- 
ditions are much less rigid in the North. 

But skinners and tanners find themselves by reason 
of the nature of their work in a very low social position, 
and while the conquered have had to find their living 
among the despised, still, there are other elements that 
have helped to confirm these low-caste groups in their 
social positions. The idea of pollution, or its reverse, the 
idea of purity, may be traced more accurately to worship. 
The sense of ceremonial purity certainly antedates the 
idea of pollution due to the eating of beef or to the idea 
of the sanctity of the cow. It was the right to share in 


the fire-sacrifice that was early restricted. When the 
worship of the cow came into vogue, the idea of pollu- 
tion was intensified. The sense of separation once made 
absolute on the grounds of ceremonial pollution, the 
whole life of the group, habits and occupation included, 
were taken up into the attitude of disgust. It was 
thus through religious scruples that the racial element 
was joined with the occupational to fix the social level 
of such as the leather-worker. The men with the disgust- 
ing occuption were of an alien race and religion, and by 
that very fact impure. If any further considerations were 
necessary to complete the realization that the leather- 
workers were outcastes, it would be found in their affinities 
with non-Aryan races in matters of belief. There is much 
in their superstitions and in their customs, and there always 
has been, that sets them off by themselves so far as the 
Aryan or the Hindu is concerned. In this worship there 
is at least an expression of the sense of some superior 
power, though that power is most often malevolent, and 
the accompanying sacrifice is to appease or to propitiate 
the object of the voiced entreaty or request. The whole 
range of primitive praying, from the worship of the fetish 
and the totem to the adoration of the scarcely-known 
higher gods, is present in the religious life of the Chamar. 
But, by the side of this personal, social element, there is 
the anti-social, anti-religious use of charms and spells 
which belong to magic. The Chamars have a reputation 
for witchcraft, and this is borne out by abundant practice 
both of white and black magic. Again, while the domestic 
ceremonies of the Chamars show much Brahmanical 
influence, and while the cardinal elements of Brahmanism 
are practised by them, still there is a very large admixture 
of details of ritual that belong to the non-Aryan religion. 
The fear of demons and the principles of spirit-possession 
are everywhere taken into account, and malicious spirits 
and demons of disease are universally feared. None of 
these elements of primitive belief are borrowed; they come 
from the strata in which the Chamars themselves are 
found. These facts also set Chamars at a tremendous 
social disadvantage. 


To the foregoing reasons why the Chamars are 
despised above most men may be added the reputation 
which they have for crime. They are popularly regarded 
as poisoners of cattle. In the Chhattisgarh Division of the 
Central Provinces they are regarded as the most criminal 
class in the community. Their reputation for crime is 
undoubtedly far beyond the facts. All of these factors 
which combine to fix the Chamar's social status bear testi- 
mony also to his social condition. Another social fact is the 
laxity which exists in matters of morality. While some 
forms of adultery are severely dealt with, there is much 
impurity, and the general thought-level in matters concern- 
ing tfre relations of the sexes is very low. The nach, 
in which men and boys dress as women, and in which 
women take part, is another evil. Obscene songs and 
coarse jesting are very common. Women are held in very 
little respect. The picture of the social aspects of the 
Chamar's life may be completed by reference to the state 
of education in the caste and to religious beliefs and social 

There is difference of opinion concerning the physical 
fitness of the Chamars. Poverty, intemperance, and lax 
social standards, together with the practice of child- 
marriage, would naturally combine to make them men of 
inferior physique, and yet some think that they are strong 
men capable of great endurance. The judgment that is 
passed upon the Chamars in this respect depends very 
largely upon the locality which the judge has in mind. 

However, so far as infirmities are concerned, the 
Chamars compare favourably with the population as a 
whole. The figures on infirmities among the Chamars 
for every one hundred thousand of the population of the 
United Provinces in 1911 were as follows : 

Insane Deaf-Mute* Blind Leper 

Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female 

17 9 50 36 208 288 43 12 

23 12 67 45 209 236 48 11 

Only in the case of blindness are the afflictions 
more numerous amongst the women. The correspond- 
ing number for the whole population of the United 


Provinces per one hundred thousand are given for 
comparison. 1 

The outstanding fact about the Chamar's religion is 
its lack of comfort and of hopeful outlook. For the most 
part he lives in fear of malevolent powers and is engaged 
in propitiating them, and superstition grips him with all 
its terrors. Furthermore, the great mass of the Chamars 
know very little about their own religious beliefs and social 
customs. " This is our custom "; or, " This is the way 
it is done/* is their usual answer to questions. For 
example, being questioned, a village Chamar replied that 
he was a " Pachpiriya." But he could not name a single 
one of the " Five Saints " whom he worshipped, nor 
could he give any information about his religion. All that 
he could say was, "I am a Pachpiriya." 

This ignorance concerning their religion leads many of 
them to say that they have no religion at all. Although 
there are considerable numbers of Chamars who follow 
the gurus of the reform sects and who have risen through 
initiation to a relatively higher religious plane, the 
religious and moral conceptions of the masses of the 
Chamars are reflected in the domestic customs and in the 
attention paid to demons of various kinds. The domestic 
customs contain mainly three elements : (1) obscenity and 
intemperance, (2) superstition, and (3) idolatry. Where 
the Chamars have lived for some time in the larger cities, 
and where they have come under the influence of the 
AryaSamaj, or of Christianity, they are becoming ashamed 
of the grosser and more superstitious elements in their 
customs, and are professing to have lost faith in their 

The things for which they pray are mostly of the 
material sort, since they have little hope of obtaining 
spiritual benefits from those to whom they address the 
longings of their hearts. They ask, for the most part, to be 
let alone, not to be plagued nor to be overtaken by calamity. 
Religion consists in doing (karam), in performing 

1 These figures are approximate and are based upon The Census 
Report, United Provinces, 1911, Subsidiary Table I., pp.320, 317, 318. 


customary acts, in bathing, in making offerings, in 
pilgrimages, and in similar Hindu practices. They are 
anxious to fulfil the Hindu requisites of life. The future 
holds no great prospect for them, for they are very low 
down in the transmigratory world. Only as good works 
may modify the possibilities of the future are they seriously 
concerned with duty. For them the chief end in life is 
to live as comfortably as possible, to obtain the largest 
possible share of " pleasure/' and to escape as many of 
the untoward experiences of life as possible. Of the 
violation of the moral law they have some notions ; and they 
agree that it is good to be honest, truthful, chaste, kind, 
generous, and hospitable ; but, in this hard world, such 
standards of life are difficult to attain ; consequently, 
Chamars are not over zealous in good works. They admit 
that such works are good for those who do them. Still, 
there has been widespread religious advance, coupled with 
insight and enthusiasm, with the acceptance of the 
message of bhakti, or devotion, through the theistic 
reform sects. This is especially noteworthy in the 
movements issuing from Ramananda. In this phenomenon 
there is ample assurance that the Chamars may have a 
much better future. 

The response of the Chamar to the influences of the 
great socio-religious forces about him is marked. First, 
there is the general steady effort to follow orthodox Hindu 
customs. Caste fissures also bear testimony to the influ- 
ence of Hiriduism. 

Second, there is the response to the efforts of the Arya 
Samaj. The last Census (1911) recorded 1,551 Arya 
Chamars in the United Provinces. 1 In some areas consider- 
able effort has been made by this organization. But up to 
the present time they have not formulated any broad 
policy. There are isolated efforts, however, and a broader 
policy is sure to appear. As yet the Arya Samaj confines 
itself largely to those communities where other religious 
bodies have already begun to work, and enters these places 
to a considerable extent as an obstructionist. 

1 Census Tables, United Provinces, 1911, p. 301. 


Third, the influence of Islam is marked. The Julahas, 
who are Mohammadans, and the Mochis, most of whom 
are Mussulmans, are standing witnesses to the influence 
of Mohammadanism. Besides this, 5,651 Mussulman 
Chamars were reported in 1911 in the United Provinces, 
and 10,811 in all India. 1 

During 1911, preceding the Census enumeration, both 
the Arya Samaj and the Mohammadan communites 
made special efforts to enrol Chamars, especially those 
who were Christians. With the increased rivalry between 
the two communities, as representative government 
gains ground, both will make greater efforts to win the 

Fourth, the Christian Church is gaining a good many 
converts from amongst the Chamars. Christian converts 
are being made in a number of widely scattered areas, and 
so-called mass movements amongst leather-workers are 
now in progress from the far South to the North of India. 
In Northern India the largest movements are in the 
liberal-minded areas in the north-west of the United 
Provinces and in Bihar. At the present time fully half 
a million Chamars are being directly influenced by 
Christian propaganda, and many thousands more indirectly. 
The knowledge of this movement is very widespread 
amongst the Chamars of all sub-castes. Reports from 
many areas indicate that as a caste they are accessible. 
Already some 45,000 have been baptized. 2 

The problems confronting those who undertake to lift 
up the Chamars are very great. Neither upon ignorance 
nor upon poverty can any large advance be made. A real 
programme for their economic uplift is in itself a very large 
task. Co-operative societies, improved methods in industrial 
and agricultural work, and the emancipation of the Chamar 
from the thraldom of begar are involved in this problem. 
And the very great size of the caste makes the problem 
still more difficult. No large educational advance can be 

1 Census Tables, United Provinces, 1911, p. 278; Imperial 
Tables, 1911, p. 187. 

8 The estimates given above are conservative, and are based 
upon incomplete returns from missionaries. 


expected until there is a real -improvement in their eco- 
nomic conditions. Much of their lethargy, much of their 
indifference shown towards education, is due to the de- 
pressing influences of poverty. In addition, hygiene, sani- 
tation, and domestic economy must find their place 
amongst the masses through the development of real social 
centres. We thus have a large field for a real social 
programme. Added to this must be a moral and religious 
programme which will stamp out drunkenness and im- 
morality ; which will give them a real sense of personal 
worth and a feeling of self-respect ; and which will alienate 
them from superstition. Then the outstanding elements 
in domestic rites and customs, obscenity and vulgarity, 
superstition and idolatry, must be eradicated. Enlighten- 
ment and moral teaching will deal most effectively with 
the two former, and pure religion with all three, and espe- 
cially with the last. The process of emancipation will not 
be rapid. Their case calls also for regulative laws, for a 
legislative programme. One outstanding need is that of 
the planting of Christian social centres in Chamar 
communities. Community organizations, of which the 
settlement house and children's houses are suggestive, are 
here needed. 1 In the village life of this great caste is 
found one of the greatest opportunities for social endeavour 
such as that urged by the foremost Christian leadership of 
to-day. This will mean that the Chamar is offered a real 

1 The Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in 
America operates a Department of Immigrant and City Work. In 
ministering to the recent immigrant the approach is from the community 
standpoint, i.e., the immigrant is dealt with, not detached from, hut in 
relation to, his environing community. Knit up with the community in 
which he lives is his life, his progress, his welfare, and that of his family. 
Therefore the work of the Church in any given immigrant community 
must be developed on a comprehensive scale. " It calls for a 
sympathetic understanding of the previous life and social and religious 
traditions of the immigrant, and at the same time demands that we 
introduce him to the best this country has in civic, social and religious 
ideals.*' This principle has inspired a new form of religious ministry 
conducted by the Presbyterian Home Board. It is designated 
" industrial parish work." This work is now operating in no less 
than nine important industrial communities where the new immigrant 
is a large population factor. 


social fellowship 1 ; that his economic and educational claims 
will receive attention ; and that in work for his emancipation 
the most modern methods of religious education will be 
introduced. Those who would help him must sympathize 
with him in his superstition and his degradation and go to 
him with positive teaching rather than with attack upon 
his customs and beliefs. The elements of prayer and of 
belief in spiritual values are potential in his fears and 

In the foregoing paragraphs some social and religious 
problems of the Chamars have been discussed, and some 
solutions have been outlined. There remains to suggest 
some means through which the Chamars may be lifted to 
a satisfactory place in the social order and through which 
they may enter into a satisfying religious life. 

In a real sense the Chamars are the product of the 
social and religious teachings of their own land. Accord- 
ing to the doctrine of karma a man is what he is because 
of what has happened, and he finds himself just where, 
in the very nature of things, he belongs. Chamars, and 
their neighbours in the social scale, are foreordained to 
menial tasks with no outlook towards better things 
in this life. Ignorance, grinding poverty, servitude and 
degradation are their lot, and, although there are many 
signs of a new day for these " untouchable " classes, 
still movements urging improved conditions for these 
outcastes, which are now stirring in many parts of India, 
arise from impact with Christianity, rather than from 
the social force of Hinduism. Says a noted Indian, 
"The ideas that lie at the heart of the Gospel of Christ 
are slowly but surely permeating every part of Hindu 
thought." 2 While the religious teachers of India do not 
present an adequate social programme for the Chamar, 

1 This is a conception hard to be grasped in a country with a 
social history like India has. In a recent discussion of social service 
the following sentence is found : " The soulless animal rises up at the 
command of the teacher metamorphosed into a full-fledged human 
being. . . " Indian Review, May 1918, Article " Social Service 
in the Punjab/ 1 

* Farquhar, Modern Religious Movements in India, p. 445. 


Jesus does. 1 The Law and the Prophets which he came 
to fulfil champion the cause of the weak and condemn 
those who exploit the defenceless and the poor. The 
striking thing about Jesus's message is his estimate of the 
common people, the peasants and the common labourers. 
44 Ye are the salt of the earth " 2 follows after : 

4< Happy are you poor ! 

For yours is the Kingdom of God. 
Happy are you who hunger now ! 
For you shall be satisfied." 8 

Here is the message of economic salvation. Jesus 
insists that men are not impersonal units to be herded 
together, or to be exploited, or to be sacrificed to the 
whim of the more fortunate classes, but that they are 
valuable persons to be delivered from their hard lot. He 
is the champion of the depressed masses. His message 
has always been good news to them. A very large part of 
the growing church of the first century was made up of 
44 Wool-dressers, cobblers and fullers, the most uneducated 
and vulgar persons." 4 Since then new life with new 
privileges and new living conditions has followed in the wake 
of the acceptance of Christ. And to-day we find that 
amongst the poor the leaven of his economic promises is 
at work. The exploited and the poor are voicing demands 
which are big with expectations which Jesus has encouraged. 
And the Chamars are beginning to look hopefully to 
Christianity for emancipation. 

Again, the Chamars are by birth doomed to illiteracy. 
Indian traditional ideals concerning the privileges of 
enlightenment are well known. On the other hand, the 
prophets and Jesus were teachers. The classes whom 
they championed, as well as those who sat in authority, 
were their pupils. The new Christian, even from the 

1 For a clear analysis of this subject see Kent, The Social 
Teachings of the Prophets and Jesus. 

* Matthew v. 13. 
8 Luke vi. 20, 21. 

* See Glover, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman 
Empire, p. 241. This book makes a good commentary on the subject 
of these paragraphs. 


despised classes, became a teacher. 1 The children of 
Christian parents were taught. The Christians acquired 
knowledge. And it has been the pride of Christianity 
from the beginning that it has developed an enlightened 
community. The advance of popular education in the 
West has been pari passu with an open gospel. 3 So far, 
in India, the only real heralds of enlightenment for the 
Chamars have been Christians. No other agencies are yet 
able to place open books and liberty of thought before all 
men equally. 

Besides, Jesus has a programme for the socially disen- 
franchised. It rests in the recognition of the solidarity 
of the race. He draws no artificial lines of division 
in society. Jesus gave practical illustration to his 
principles. He mingled freely with all classes. He 
accepted with equal alacrity invitations to dine whether 
given by learned Pharisees or by despised tax-collectors. 
When Scribes and Pharisees flung at him the contemptuous 
charge that he was the friend of drunkards and social out- 
casts, Jesus openly declared that the men who appealed 
most strongly to his sympathies were the socially 
disinherited classes ; those who were ceremonially and 
morally beyond the pale of Pharisaic teaching; those 
who were regarded by the religious classes as little more 
than social refuse. Most of them were social outcasts, 
and many of them, because of their crimes and manner of 
living, were probably debarred from the synagogues. Such 
facts as these show how fully the Chamars' need for a new 
place in the social order is met by the position of Jesus. 

Moreover, there are signs that Chamars are open to 
such a gospel as Jesus preached. They are uneasy ; they 
dislike being called Chamars ; they are anxious to shake 
off the disgusting practices connected with their name ; 
they long for a better place in society ; and they desire 
economic freedom. They are beginning to look towards 
Jesus for the realization of these things. Indeed, in many 

1 Glover, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire , 
241, 242. 

* Simple illustration of this point may be found in any good history 
of the English Bible. 


places the more enlightened amongst them feel that real 
opportunities lie with the Christ ; and they are willing to 
endure persecution and many hardships for the sake of the 
gospel. From widely separated areas this attitude is 
reported. Beyond these groups there are many others who 
say that they will all eventually enter the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus stands in relation to the Kingdom of God as the 
Saviour. He is the initiator of the new order. He is the 
deliverer of those who are bound. He indentifies himself 
with the hungry, the naked and the lowly, and he says 
that he came to save them. The Kingdom comes after he 
has paid the price. His death puts the seal of sincerity 
upon his words. Not even the pangs of death could make 
him yield his position. Thus the powers of evil are forced 
back and men enter into a new life. 

Their question of social purity must be studied from 
the standpoint of Christianity. Standards of sex relation- 
ship are set forth once and for all, and in final terms, 
by Jesus, who speaks with supreme insistence : 

"But I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a 
woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her 
already in his heart. " 

11 And if thy eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, 
and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that 
one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole 
body be cast into hell." 

** And if thy right hand causeth thee to stumble, cut 
it off, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee 
that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole 
body go into hell." 1 

Obscenity and laxity cannot live under such surgery. 
Jesus says further : 

" Whosoever shall divorce his wife in order to marry 
another, commits adultery against her. He puts the 
other side of the case also : " And if she divorces her hus- 
band in order to marry another, she commits adultery." 2 

1 Matthew v. 28, 29, 30. 

1 See Kent, The Social Teachings of the Prophets and Jesus, 
p. 243. 



Jesus bases his teaching concerning adultery and 
social impurity on the worth of the individual. Acts of 
sexual immorality are traced to the failure to appreciate 
this point of view. For Jesus the family is the funda- 
mental institution, and in it woman finds her true place 
of worth. Thus he puts a supreme value upon per- 
sonality. On the other hand Hinduism seeks and guaran- 
tees the absolute loss of personal identity of character, of 
consciousness, and of all else which makes for a glorified 
humanity. The doctrine of maya takes all worth out of 
personality. Besides, the social conditions as they exist in 
the lower strata of society are taken for granted ; they are 
simply the working out of inevitable law (karma). More- 
over, the Indian Law Books look upon woman with sus- 
picion. On the foundations of such a social conscience 
salvation in its deeper social significance can never be 
achieved. But Jesus, on the other hand, draws men out of 
the pit and establishes them in clean living. 

The history of the early church gives testimony to the 
power of Jesus to purify life. It is never to be forgotten 
that the great numbers in those days were from the 
" lower " ranks of life. Yet "they were astonishingly 
upright, pure and honest/' and " they had in themselves 
inexplicable resources of moral force. Ml "The early 
Christian rose quickly to a sense of the value of woman." 2 
This is all the more remarkable when the low moral 
standards in those Roman days are taken into account. 
But such purifying of life has taken place in every age and 
country where Jesus has been accepted. The Chamars 
need just such a Saviour as Jesus has proved himself to be. 

Christianity is however for the Chamars more than 
an economic, more than a social gospel. Hinduism on 
its lower side is polytheistic, is saturated with demonology, 
and is exceedingly superstitious. Therefore the Chamars 
must look elsewhere for deliverance from superstitions and 
the fear of evil spitits and from the evils which follow in 

1 Glover, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire, 
p. 142. 

Ibid., p. 163, 


the wake of these beliefs. Historically Christianity is the 
religion which emancipates from such forms of bondage. 
Jesus has always cast out devils. Christianity from the 
first has witnessed the disappearance of pagan beliefs and 
fears. A glance at early Christian history shows this. 
In the first century people hung rags and other offerings 
on holy trees, revered wells and streams, and believed in 
magic, enchantment, miracles, astrology and witchcraft. 
They were in the grip of demons with their hatred of men, 
their immorality and cruelty, and their sacrifices, and 
they knew the terrors of " possession " and of enchant- 
ment. Christianity came as a deliverer, and in the place 
of terror came peace. A new phenomenon, Christian 
happiness, or sense of security, appeared. Since then 
Jesus has driven back the forces of darkness in land after 
land. Down to the present time he rebukes superstition 
with the same authority and gives peace to fearful souls. 
In India to-day there are thousands of followers of Jesus 
who scarcely know the names of the demons whom their 
parents feared. 

Besides, Jesus has a message about God. According to 
him the poor as well as the rich will find a Father. Jcsus's 
teaching is about an active, sympathetic, sufficient Person. 
God is not lost in the shadows nor set afar off by lesser 
beings. He is close at hand and on the side of the poor. More- 
over, God is not the great Terror. Jesus revealed him as the 
great Father. Nor is God a mighty Despot sitting high 
over his subjects ; he is a Father who i'orgives sins freely, 
welcomes the prodigal, makes his sun shine on the just 
and the unjust, and who asks for nothing but love, trust, 
co-operation and obedience. Such a God will attract the 
mind and heart of the Chamars. Their hope lies in the 
realization of Jesus's teaching of the Fatherhood of God, 
and of its corollary the brotherhood of man. 

Furthermore, Jesus himself offers the sufficient life for 
men. He did not fail where others have failed. 1 With his 
unique ideas about God and his intimate fellowship with 

1 See W. Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel, 
pp. 155-159. 


God, he did not lose touch with the hard realities which 
confront men everywhere. While he is our great example 
of prayer and immediate communion with God, still the 
Kingdom of God engaged his will and set his task in the 
midst of men. He drew his strength from God, but 
he put it forth in the world. The needy world drew 
forth all his sympathies. He was not a mystic in the 
narrower sense of escape from the world. Furthermore, 
Jesus did not read life in terms of its darker side. He was 
not a pessimist. Although he knew the strength of the 
Kingdom of Evil, he launched the Kingdom of God 
against it and staked his life on the issue. Even when his 
life was overshadowed by opposition, seeming failure and 
death, he did not despair. Besides, Jesus was neither 
ascetic nor other-worldly. He liked a normal well-rounded 
life. He set forth the distinctive difference between 
himself and John the Baptist, showing that he placed 
himself in the midst of men in their everyday life and 
needs. He believed in a life after death, but it was not 
the dominant element in his teaching nor the constraining 
force in his religious life. He was concerned with the 
well-being of men in this world. He fasted when he was 
absorbed in thought. He went without food, sleep, and 
home life because he was set on a big thing. This is the 
revolutionary asceticism of the Kingdom of God, but that 
is wholly different from individualistic and other-worldly 
asceticism. Jesus communed with God ; he fully recognized 
the power of evil in the world, and he held his life with alight 
grasp. Yet he escaped the snares of mysticism, pessi- 
mism, asceticism and other-worldliness. Out of the same 
ingredients, communion with God, recognition of evil, 
and religious intensity and self-control, he built his higher, 
sufficient life. His attitude toward life was the direct 
product of his two-fold belief in the Father who is love and 
the Kingdom of God which is coming. 

And finally, Jesus is the sufficent object of devotion. 
The announcement of Ramanuja to the low-caste man 
was that he can worship God, and that he has a real 
religious nature. In Jesus we find the fullest scope for 
the life of devotion. Jesus draws all right thinking and 


feeling, all high motives, all clean hearts, all new-made 
men and women, all devotion and love of all men up into 
his great and sufficient life. He is the perfect ideal of 
life and love. 

Thus Jesus offers to the Chamars a satisfactory place 
in the social order and a satisfactory religious life. 

Those who hold that in Christianity lies the real hope 
for the redemption of the Chamars are confronted with the 
fact of the urgency of the problem. Unless the Christian 
Church pushes forward with a broad programme, opposing 
religious movements may gain advantages which it will be 
difficult to surpass. In the end, however, only that 
movement can succeed which is able to give the Chamars, 
be it ever so slowly, character, the ideal and the reality 
of good citizenship and a satisfying religious experience. 
And although the task may look very large, many are 
confident that the full redemption of the Chamars will 
come through the Gospel of the Son of God. The forces 
that confront pure religion in the beliefs and superstitions 
of the Chamars to-day are not unlike those that opposed 
Christianity in the Roman Empire. Gibbon wrote: 
" The innumerable deities and rites of polytheism were 
closely interwoven with every circumstance of business 
and pleasure, of public or private life, and it seemed impos- 
sible to escape the observance of them without, at the 
same time, renouncing the commerce of mankind and all 
the offices and amusements of society,* 1 Yet the old 
order passed away. The Christian Church looks for no 
less a victory for the Chamars. Its justification for its 
superhuman undertaking is, " The poor have the Gospel 
preached to them." 








Ajmer Merwara 



Bihar and Orissa 


Central Provinces and 


N.-W. F. Province.. 

United Provinces . . 
Baroda State 
Central India Agency 
Hyderabad State 
Kashmir State 
Rajputana Agency. . 

1 Bised upon Census of India, 1911, Vol. I. Pt. II. Table XIII. 
Pt. I. 

8 Includes Dabgar in Bihar and Orissa and Mochi, Mochigar or 
Sochi in Bombay. The Sochi of Sind, however, has been shown 
separately. (Census of India, 1911, Table XIII. pp. 187, 213.) 

3 Hind Julaha in Bengal and Bihar and Orissa not included. 

4 Not in Table. 


(Chambhar) 2 



Julaha 8 











, , 




4 S6', 120 

























635,044 18,050 




















5,294 708 





r er cent, or 

Name of Districc 



mlQl 1 thnt 

in 1911 

in 1911 

was Chamar 

1. Dehra Dun 




2. Saharanpur 




3. Muzaffarnagar .. 




4. Meerut 




5. Bulandshahr 




6. Aligarh .. 




Total of MEERUT Div 




7. Muttra .. 




8. Agra 




9. Farrukhabad 




10. Mainpuri 




11. Etawah .. 




12. Etah 




Total of AGRA Div. 




13. Bareilly . 




14. Bijnore 




15. Badaun 




16. Moradabad 




17. Shahjahanpur . . 




18. Pilibhit .. 





D Div. 5,650,518 



19. Cawnpore 




20. Fatehpur 




21. Banda .. 




22. Hamirpur 




23. Allahabad 




24. Jhansi 




25. Jalaun 





Div. 5,494,284 



26. Benares .. 




27. Mirzapore 




28. Jaunpur 




29 Ghazipur ., 




30. Ballia .. 




Total of BENARES Div. 4,809,478 
















Total of GORAKHPUR Drv. 

Naini Tal 








Total of KUMAUN Div. 

Rae Bareilly 














Total of LUCKNOW Div. 
















Total of FYZABAD Div. 


Rampur .. 







Total of STATES 




Note : Chamar Sikhs, numbering 79 males and 39 females, are not 
included in these tables. 



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Male Female 

BIHAR AND ORISSA 520,099 594,368 

(1) British Territory 516,189 590,609 

PATNA DIVISION 125,852 144,967 

Patna 29,494 31,467 

Gaya 41,857 45,808 

Shahabad 54,501 67,692 

TIRHUT DIVISION 228,240 274,327 

Saran 50,066 70,143 

Champaran 63,789 69,378 

Muzaffarpur 65,054 78,988 

Darbhunga 49,331 55,818 

BHAOALPORE DIVISION 101,238 107,338 

Monghyr 27,922 32,375 

Bhagalpur 47,284 49,475 

Purnea 11,087 10,265 

Santhal Paraganas .. ./ .. .. 14,945 15,223 

ORISSA DIVISION 15,081 17,315 


NATIVE STATES 3,910 3,759 

Bihar and Orissa Census Tables, 1911, p. 101. 




Male Female 

CENTRAL PROVINCES AND BERAR . . . . 443,059 458,535 

C. P. BRITISH DISTRICTS 385,704 401,102 


Saugor 35,914 35,219 

Damoh 21,757 21,562 

Jubbulpore 19,999 19,966 

Mandla 2,376 2,303 

Seoni 2,633 2,714 

NARBUDDA DIVISION 29,849 29,243 

NAGPUR DIVISION 12,638 11,852 


Raipur 98,701 104,377 

Bilaspur 103,768 110,553 

Drug 58,069 63,313 

BERAR 16,395 15,789 

FEUDATORY STATES 40,960 41,644 

Census Tables, Central Provinces and Berar, 1911, p. 129, 



The preparation of buffalo, bullock and cow hides, 
which occupies about a month, consists of two processes, 
liming and tanning. The hides are soaked, split into 
sides, and limed. They are left in the pits for from six to 
eight, or from twelve to fourteen, days according to the 
season. For each hide one seer (about two pounds) of 
slaked lime is used and enough water to cover the hide. 
For every ten seers of lime one of impure soda is added. 
After three to four, or six to eight, days the skins are 
removed, and un haired with a khurpi, or scraper. They 
are then placed in a new lime solution of the same 
strength as before, but without the soda. When the skins 
are sufficiently swollen they are taken out and fleshed on 
a stone slab with a rampi, or currier's knife. They are 
then laid in clean water for from four to six hours. 
Bating (hdngd) follows. This process is designed to remove 
the lime and to open the pores so that the hide may be 
grained and coloured. The first solution consists of ten 
measures of very old tan liquor and ten seers of the same 
three times as strong and one seer of kan, or rice husk. 
This is put into earthen vessels and allowed to ferment for 
about a week. Each Vessel holds four sides, which are 
handled frequently. This process lasts four days. A 
second bating is done in a solution of water mixed with 
molasses and mahwa flour or with mahwa refuse from a 
distillery. A third bating is then made in a solution the same 
as the first, except that scraps of fleshing are used in the 
place of rice husks. The hide is now pliable. It is laid on 

1 See G. H. Walton, A Monograph on Tanning and Working in 
Leather, upon with this section is based. 


a slab, scraped on the grained side, and wrung dry. It is 
then rinsed with old tan liquor, kneaded, rubbed, and wrung 
dry. Again it is laid in strong tan liquor for from twelve 
to twenty-four hours, being kneaded and wrung by hand 
at frequent intervals. The leather is now sewed up with 
muhj (a grass twine) into a bag, hung up, and filled with 
tan mixture. This consists of fifteen seers of new and ten 
seers of half-spent tan bark (babul), water and weak tan 
liquor. To this mixture are added two to four pounds of 
small twigs of bamdd? powdered and mixed with water. 
The bag is suspended by the neck from a wooden tripod 
over a ndmd (a large earthen vessel). As the liquor drips 
through the pores it is poured back into the bag. After 
twenty-four hours the bag is taken down, the neck is 
sewn up and the bag is hung up reversed for twelve hours. 
The hide is then taken down, opened and laid out. It is 
sprinkled with four ounces of impure salt (khdrl) and four 
ounces of bark dust, which are then well rubbed in. The 
hide is then set out on the grain side with a sleeker. 
This last, and even the bating, process is often neglected 
by Chamars. The currying of leather is almost entirely 

Another native process consists chiefly of liming. 
First, the hides are laid on the floor and roughly fleshed, 
smeared over with lime-paste and folded up. Each hide is 
then tied at both ends and placed in a ndmd containing 
lime solution. The hides are kept in position by means of 
a large stone. After three days the hides are removed, 
unfolded and rubbed with lime, after which they are 
replaced in the ndmd and left for four or five days. They 
are then taken out, rubbed, scraped, cleaned, ^and washed 
with clean water. When the hair and flesh have been 
completely removed the hides are fit for tanning. The 
hides, which are now white, are soaked in clean water to 
which is added a handful of fermented bark-dust paste, 
and allowed to lie for two nights. The hides are then 
folded lengthwise and twisted until all the moisture is 
squeezed out of them. They are then unfolded, wet, and 

1 The mistletoe found on the mango tree, 


twisted in the reverse way. This process of wetting and 
squeezing takes the place of bating. The hides are then 
treated with tanning materials as above described. After 
the tanning process has been completed, the leather is 
curried with salt curds and ghi. This completes the 

Owing to the excessive use of lime, the leather 
produced by the Chamar is very porous and of an inferior 
quality. The tanning is scarcely more than a colouring 
process. The object of tanning is to produce, by a 
combination of tannin with the gelatine of the hide or 
skin, an insoluble, impenetrable substance. The lime 
destroys to a considerable extent the fibres upon which 
the tannin acts. 

The tanning of sheep and goat skins is almost entirely 
in the hands of the Chikwas, or Chiks, Mohammedan 
leather workers of Chamar origin, who look down with 
scorn upon the Chamar. This process is, briefly, as 
follows : The skins, which are received whole from the 
slaughter-house, flesh outside, are smeared with lime, left 
for a day, and then turned right-side out. They are then 
washed and limed, being allowed to lie in the lime for from 
five to fifteen days, and then washed and fleshed. A thick 
paste is then made by boiling down mahua flour. When 
it has cooled it is spread over the skins, which are then 
allowed to stand for eight days ; or a gruel of lentil and 
barley meal and water is prepared, in which the skins are 
laid for a week, and occasionally handled. The skins are 
then washed, and laid in tan liquor, being passed from 
weak to strong solutions in a series oindthds. This process 
lasts from eight to fifteen days, during which time the 
skins are handled two or three times a day, hand-rubbed, 
and wrung to make them pliable. They are then rubbed 
with sajfi (impure soda) on the flesh side and dried in the 

Coloured leathers are made from goat and sheep skins 
by special processes. To produce red leather lakh (lac) 
is put into the gruel bath. Blue leather is obtained by the 
use of copper filings, sal ammoniac and lime juice ; and 
black leather by the use of copperas instead of copper filings, 


The manufacture of shagreen is in the hands of Moham- 
medans. The preparation of the skins of various species 
of deer is as above, except that sal bark is used in the 
tanning process. Sal gives a rich brown colour, dhadra 
a light yellow, and babul a buff. Combinations of these 
materials produce shades of colour. 

The substances used in tanning are the bark, leaves, 
and pods of the babul tree (acacia arabica); the dhadra 
or bakli (anogeissus latifolia), a native of the lower Hima- 
layan tract ; the bark of the sal (shorea robusta); har and 
bahaira, myrabolams, the fruit of the terminalia chebula 
and terminalia bellerica respectively ; the bark and berries 
of the ghunt (ziziphus xylopyra), a jungle tree ; the leaves 
of the bamdd, a parasite commonly found on the mango 
tree ; the fruit, leaves and bark of the aonla (phyllanthus 
emblica), a tree of moderate size with feathery foliage ; the 
bark of the amaltds (cassia fistula); the leaves and flour 
of the mahua (cassia latifolia) ; the bark of the rhea 
(acacia leucophlaa) ; the bark of the avaram (cassia 
auriculata) ; and the pod of the dividivi (ccesalpinia 
coriaria). Some materials imported from abroad are also 
used. Babul is the most valuable tanning agent found in 

The several kinds of shoes are all made on the same 
principle. They may be embroidered or otherwise deco- 
rated. The shoemaker begins with the sole. A thin piece 
of leather is smeared with a paste of mustard oil. Over 
this are laid, first, odd scraps of leather, second, a heavy 
layer of mud, and third, a thin piece of leather. The 
curved toe of the shoe forms part of the inside of the sole 
of leather. The heel-piece is attached in the same way. 
The maker now puts a couple of stitches of leather thong 
through the middle of this composite sole to keep it in 
position for the next step, which consists in stitching on 
the upper. He begins at the toe, working round with a 
plain running stitch, boring holes for the thong to pass 
through. The heel-piece is then trimmed and sewed on 
to the upper, which is then closed. The toe part is like- 
wise treated. Additional stitching and ornamentation 
may be added. The commonest kinds of country shoes 



are called golpanjd and adhaurl. The latter is generally 
made for hard work. Other styles of shoes are the hafti, 
something like the English slipper ; the sulemshahi, a long 
narrow shoe with a slender nok ; thepanjdbi, similar to the 
former but with characteristic decorations ; the ghetla, an 
ugly shoe with an exaggerated curl over the toes, and appar- 
ently without a heel; ihtgurgabi, which has no nok, made 
with a buckle over the instep ; the charhdwans, made of 
black velvet, with nok and heel-piece of shagreen ; and the 
zerpai, or half-shoe, with a point and no heel, which is 
worn by women only. 

Among the leather articles manufactured in the villages 
are thongs ; the matak, or water skin, used by the bihiM ; 
the kuppdj a leather jar for holding ghi ; the kuppl y or 
phuleli, scent bottles ; drums, daihkd tabld, tdSd and dhol ; 
the charsd, pur, or moth, usually made of buffalo or of cow 
hides, and laced in the form of a bag on a circle of wood, 
and used for drawing water from wells; and sarnais, inflated 
nilgai hides used to support a cot, and made for working 
fishing-nets in rivers. 



Census Reports. 

Imperial and District Gazetteers. 

The Peoples of India. Sir H. H. Risley, New Edition, 1915. 

Hindu Tribes and Castes. M. A. Sherring, 1872, 1879, 1881. 

Punjab Castes. (A reprint of the chapter on "The Races, Castes 

and Tribes of the People," in the Census of the Punjab published 

in 1881.) Sir Denzil Ibbetson, 1916. 
Tribes and Castes of Bengal. H. H. Risley, 1891. 
The Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh. 

W. Crooke, 1896. 
Castes and Tribes of Southern India. E. Thurston and K. Ranga- 

chari, 1909. 
A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West 

Frontier Province. H. A. Rose, 1911, 1914. 
The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India. R. V. 

Russell and Rae Bahadur Hira Lall, 1916. 
Brief Review of the Caste System of the North-Western Provinces 

and Oudh. J. C. Nesfield, 1885. 
Memoirs of the Races of the North-Western Provinces of India. 

2 VoU. Revised, Sir H. M. Elliot, 1869. 
A Rural and Agricultural Glossary for the North-Western Provinces 

and Oudh. W. Crooke, 1888. 
An Ethnographical Handbook of the North-Western Provinces and 

Oudh. W. Crooke, 1890. 

The Origin and Growth of Village Communities in India. B.H. Baden- 
Powell, 1899. 

Hindu Castes and Sects. Bhattacharya, 1896. 
History of Caste in India. 2 Vols., S. V. Ketkar, 1909, 1911. 
Buddhist India. T. W. Rhys Davids, 1903. 
Brahmanism and Hinduism. M. Monier-Williams, 1891. 
Bihar Peasant Life. G. A. Grierson, 1885. 
Legends of the Punjab. R. C. Temple, 18. 
The Sacred Books of the East. Vols. II., VII., XII., XIV., XXV., 

The Industrial Organization of an Indian Province. T. Morison, 



Monograph on Trades and Manufactures of Lucknow. William 
Hoey, C.S.I., 1880. 

A Monograph on the Tanning and Working in Leather. H. G. 

Walton, I.C.S., 1903. 
A Dictionary of the Economic Products of India. 6 Vols., G. Watt, 


Notes on the Industries of the United Province*. A. C. Chatterjee, 

Report, Indian Industrial Commission, and Appendix D t 1918. 

Hindu Fasts and Feas,ts. A. C. Mukerjee, 1916. 

An Introduction to the Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern 

India. W. Crooke, 1894. 

The Village Gods of South India. Bishop Whitehead, 1916. 
An Introduction to the Study of Comparative Religions. F. B. 

Jevons, 1908. 

Primitive Ritual and Belief . E. O. James, 1917. 
Fact and Fable in Psychology. Joseph Jastrow, 1901. 
Dravidian Gods in Modern Hinduism. W. T. Elmore, 1915. 
The Dramas and Dramatic Dances of the Non-European Races. W. 

Ridgeway, 1915. 

Asiatic Studies. First Series. Sir Alfred C. Lyall, 1899. 
The Sikh Religion. 6 Vols. M. A. Macauliffe, 1909. 
The Religious Sects of the Hindus. Christian Literature Society, 1904. 
Kabir and the Kabir Panth. G. H. Westcott, 1907. 
The Bijak of Kabir. Translated into English by the Rev. Ahmad 

Shah, 1917. 
Volumes on Rai Das, Maluk Das, Dadu Dayal, and Jag Jiwan Das, 

in Belvedere Press Series (Hindi), Allahabad. 
The Modern Vernacular Literature of Hindustan. G. A. Grierson, 

Reports of the Standing Committee on Mass Movements. United 

Provinces Representative Council of Missions. 

The Mass Movement Commission Report. Wesleyan Mission Pro- 
vincial Synod, South India, 1918. 
Articles in Encyclopedia Britannica. llth Edition. 
Articles in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 
Articles in the Indian Antiquary. 
Punjab Notes and Queries. 
The Golden Bough. J. A. Frazer, 1913-14. 


Ajwain a seed of a plant of the dill 


Am the mango tree, or fruit. 
Babul a tree (Acacia arabica). 
Bahli a two-wheeled car. 
Bahnol a sister's husband. 
Bairdgi an ascetic ; a devotee ; one 

who has subdued his worldly desires 

and passions. 
Bajrd a kind of millet ; Indian 


Bandagi a mode of salutation. 
Bdritdi laumdi a maidservant ; a 


Baniydz shopkeeper ; a grain seller. 
Barat the marriage procession. 
Batasa, batata a kind of sweetmeat. 
Batta the stone roller used with the 

stone on which spices are ground. 
Bel a tree (Aegle marmelos) ; the 

fruit of this tree. 

Bhagat- a saint ; a devotee ; a wizard. 
Bhajan a hymn. 

Bhakti passionate devotion: worship. 
Bhangi a sweeper ; a low caste who 

are scavengers. 

Bhell a lump of coarse su^ar. 
Shut a ghost ; an evil spirit. 
Bichwdni, bichaum a go-between ; 

an agent. 

Bitddari a brotherhood ; kin. 
Bir a hero ; a powerful demon. 
Biydh marriage. 
Chadar a sheet ; clothing. 
Chamrauti,chamarwdrdthe Chamar 

quarter of a village or town. 
Chapdti a thin cake of unleavened 

Chappan an eastern lid, or cover, 

for an earthen pot. 
Charandmrit water in which the 

feet of a guru (or other holy person) 

have been washed 

Chdrpdt* bedstead. 

Chaudhariz headman. 

Chauk a square. 

Chhappar a thatched roof ; a hut, 

Chhatdmk the sixteenth partof a seer, 
or about two ounces avoirdupois. 

Chhatthi a religious service per- 
formed on the sixth day after 

Chilam the part of the huqqa which 
contains the tobacco and fire ; a 
clay bowl, with a stem, used for 

Chimtd tongs ; fire-tongs. 

Chirdg the common earthen lamp. 

Chulha a cooking-place ; a fire- 

Chutiyd a sacred scalp-lock ; a 
sacred lock of hair. 

Dal a split pea ; pulse. 

Dewdli a fall festival. 

Dhdka. tree (Butea frondosa). 

Dhobi a washerman. 

Dhol a large drum. 

Dhoti* cloth worn round the waist, 
passed between the legs and fastened 

Dola a form of marriage. 

Doll a kind of sedan for women. 

Dom a low, untouchable caste. 

Dub a kind of grass (Agrestis 
linear is) . 

Faqir a "holy" man ; a mendicant. 

Gdmjd the hemp plant. The fructi- 
fication when nearly ripe is bruised 
and smoked for intoxication. 

Gdn a cart ; a carriage ; a coach. 

Gaukama perquisites. 

Gaund the consummation of mar- 
riage ; bringing home a wife. 

Ghard an earthen waterpot. 

Gobar -dried cow-dung. 

Got kin ; family stock ; lineage. 



Gur Raw sugar. 

Guru a spiritual guide, or teacher. 

Haldi turmeric. 

Halwd a kind of sweetmeat. 

HamsU a collar (of metal) worn as 
a neck ornament. 

Hamsnd khelnd coarse and obscene 

Holl a great Hindu festival and 
saturnalia held at the approach of 
the vernal equinox. 

Horn a fire-sacrifice ; an oblation of 
clarified butter in fire. 

Huqqd-pdm commensality. 

Imli the tamarind tree. 

Jddu enchantment ; magic ; jug- 

Jajmdn hereditary rights ; perqui- 

Janwaihs ; janwds the place at the 
bride's house where the bridegroom 
and his train are received. 

Jawdl a son-in-law. 

Jawdr, Juwdr, Jodr, Joar Indian 

Jhdr phumknd to exorcise. 

Kachchd unripe : immature ; raw : 
of imperfect make or texture ; clay- 

Kdjal lampblack. 

Kaikgan, kamgna an ornament worn 
round the wrist. 

Kawgwa thread tied around a bride- 
groom's wrist. 

Kanydddn the bestowing a girl in 

Kardo a form of marriage. 

Karhi a dish made by boiling meal 
of pulse with spices and sour milk. 

Kauri a small shell used as a coin. 

Kharif the autumnal harvest. 

Khichn a dish made of pulse and 
rice boiled together. 

Khlr A dish made of rice boiled in 

Khurpiz scraper ; a weeding-knife : 
a hand hoe for cutting grass. 

Kohbarz place in the house where 
special preparations are made in 
connection with marriage. 

Kord an unused pot. 

Ku$ a kind of grass (Poa cynosu- 


Laddu a sweetmeat : a ball of sweet- 

n a notice appointing the day 
of marriage and other ceremonies 
connected therewith. 
Laumdi a girl ; a slave-girl ; a 

bonclmaid ; a daughter. 
Lipo( lt liped ") to plaster with a 
preparation of cow-dung and mud. 
Lota a small metal or earthen pot. 
Mahalldz ward ; a street ; a quar- 
ter of a village or town. 
Mahant a head of a religious order ; 
a religious leader of superior 

Malldh a boatman. 
Mdrndhdz marriage shed. 
Manigm betrothal . 
Mat kor } a ceremony connected 
Mat mamgra \ with marriage. 
Matkorwd& clay-pit. 
Mawr a crown worn by the bride- 
groom during the marriage cere- 

Meld a fair ; a religious fair. 
Memhdia certain plant (Lawsonia 

inermis ) . 
Musal a long, heavy, wooden 


Ndch a dance. 
Ndgphanithe prickly pear (Cactus 

ficus Indica) . 

Ndmd a vat ; a large earthen vessel. 

Nat the name of a wandering 

tribe who are generally jugglers 

and actors. 

jVazar sight ; look ; fascination; the 

evil eye. 

Neg presents at marriages and at 

other festivities made to relations 

and to particular servants ; a fee. 

Negl One who receives a fee, present 

or neg. 

Neotd an invitation. 
Neotiyd a wizard. 
NiSdni sign ; token. 
Pagri a turban. 



Pdmw pujdloot- worship. 

Panch a council ; an assembly of 

five arbitrators ; a leading man. 
Panchak the first five days of the 

" light " or of the " dark " moon. 
Panchdyat a council ; a court of 

Parachhand to wave a lamp over 

the heads of the bride and groom 

in order to drive away evil spirits ; 

to wave. 

Parwdnda pass, or certificate. 
Paid a low stool with four legs. 
Pafra a plank to sit upon. 
Perd a kind of sweetmeat. 
P/tera perambulation ; part of the 

marriage ceremony. 
Pindda lump, or ball, of rice boiled 

in milk offered to deceased ances- 

Pirz saint ; an old man. 
Pirhda low stool with four legs. 
Piiar paksh the first fortnight of 

September-October when the Hindus 

celebrate the customary obsequies 

to the manes. 
Prasdd food that has been offered 

to an idol, or of which a spiritual 

teacher has partaken. 
Purl a thin cake of meal fried in 

ghi or oil. 

Rabi' the spring harvest. 
Rdk$hasa demon ; a fiend. 
Rdrhpi a shoemaker's, or currier's, 


Roti bread ; a loaf. 
Sadhua " holy " man ; an ascetic ; 

a mendicant. 
Sddi marriage. 
Sals a groom ; a horsekeeper. 
Sagat a second marriage. 
,&zfefeflr sugar. 

Said a wife's brother : a brother-in- 
Sdligrdma sacred stone, commonly 

found in the Gandak river. 
Santa devotee ; a saint ; an initiate. 

Sari a dress consisting of one piece 

of cloth, worn by Hindu women 

round the body and passing over 

the head. 
Sarpata reed, or reed-grass (Sac- 

charum procerum) . 
Sarsoma specie? of mustard. 
Sati a woman who burns herself on 

her husband's funeral pile. 
Sattu parched grain, such as barley 

and gram, reduced to meal and 

made into a paste. 
Saumf anise seed. 
Sdwan the fourth Hindu month. 
Saydnda wizard; a devil-priest. 
Sil a stone on which condiments 

and other things are ground. 
Sindur red-lead : vermilion. 
Sir, seer a weight of about two 

Siydnapan puberty ; marriageable 


Siigd a parrot ; a marriage pole. 
Sup a winnowing basket, or fan. 
Suraj the sun. 
Surma acollyrium; antimonyground 

to fine powder. 
Surya the sun. 
Susrd a father-in-law ; a term of 

Svastika a magic mark ; a symbol 

of good luck. 
Taj a crown. 
Tdlmakhdndseed of the water-lily 

(Anneslea spinosa) . 
Tawd an iron pan on which bread 

is baked. 
Thdlia tray. 

Tijdt\\e third day of a lunar fort- 
Tikda mark, or marks, made with 

coloured earths or unguents upon the 

forehead and below the eyebrows. 
Tikthia tepoy or stool. 
fond-^ a charm; enchantment; magic. 
Ubtan a paste rubbed on the body 

before bathing, an " anointing. n 
Urd a pulse. 


** Ancestor worship, 114, 115 
Animism, 121, 200 
Arya, Aryan, 13, 14, 15 
Arya Samaj, 237 
Ashes, 109, 111, 169 

DABA FARlD, 149 

Bantu, 16 

Barrenness, 60 

Benevolent spirits, 146 ff 

Bhagat, 60, 61, 212 

Bhairom, 156, 174, 201 

Bhimsen, 153, 173 

Bhishma, 153 

Bhumia, 125 

Bhut y 129 

Btr , 133, 170, 192 ' 

Birth Customs, Chapter III., 

60 ff ; abdominal branding, 67 ; 
announcement of, 64 ; bathing, 
64, 67 ; child to breast, 65 ; 
Churel, 69 ; cleansing draught, 
67; clothing of child, 65; cutting 
of cord, 63; desires of pregnancy, 

61 ; disposal of placenta and 
cord, 64 ; eclipse, 62 ; eleventh 
day, 67 ; evil eye, 67 ; feast, 
68 ; food for the mother, 65 ; 
fourteenth day, 67 ; incense, 68 ; 
knowledge of sex, 61 ; marks, 
62 ; mother sits on heels, 63 ; 
name giving, 68 ; name kept 
secret, 69 ; offering of a goat, 
68 ; precautions against disease, 
66 ; pre-natal sale of child, 61 ; 
protection from evil influence, 
61 ; protection of the lying-in 
room, 63 ; protective devices 
soon after birth, 63 ; provisions 
for safe delivery, 62; purificatory 
rites, 67 ; seclusion of mother 
and child, 64 f ; Shasti, 66, 67 ; 

sickness and death and evil 
influences, 69 ; sixth day 
(Chhatthi), 65 f, 160; six 
months" after, 68 ; Sohar, 63 ; 
superstitions about irregularities, 
69 ; tenth day, 67 ; to obtain 
offspring, 60 ; twelfth day, 67, 
68 ; twins, 67 ; use of nails, 69 ; 
when birth-pains begin, 62 

Blood, 143 

Brahmans, 64, 67, 73, 75, 76, 80, 
85, 95, 134, 159, 172, 176, 179, 
202, 208, 210 

Bugaboos, 134 

, affiliation and fissure, 
32 ; mixed castes, 14 

Castor oil plant, 144 

Cat, 124, 160 

Chakaliyan, 31 

Chamar, a Hindu, 19; a skinner, 
20 ; Brahmanical traditions of 
origin, 15 ; current traditions 
of origin, 15-17 ; debts, 59, 
224 ; distribution, 20, 21 ; eats 
carrion, 20, 45; economic value, 
58 ; field labourers (see Occupa- 
tions) ; increasing in numbers, 
21 ; largely farm labourers, 226; 
numbers in relation to other 
castes, 20 ; numbers in relation 
to Mussulmans, 21 ; occupancy 
rights, 58 f, 224 ; origin of 
the caste, 17, 18, 19 ; over- 
crowding, 225 ; recruitment of 
the caste, 17, 18, 19 ; tanners 
(see Tanners); unclean prac- 
tices, 20 

Chamar sub-castes, 17, 18, 21 ff ; 
seven divisions of, 22; Aharwar, 
25, 29 ; Alakgir, 27 ; Chamar, 
24 ; Chamkatiya, 26 ; Dhusiya, 
25; Dohar, 24, 30 ; Doaadh, 26, 



32 ; Jaiswar, 22, 23, 30, 211 ; 

Jatiya, 18, 22, 23 ; Kori, 25 ; 

Kuril, 16, 24 ; minor sub-castes, 

26, 27 ff ; Mochi, 29, 30, 32 ; 

Purbiya, 24 ; (Rangiya), 26 ; 

Satnami, 27, 29 f, 219 ff 
Chamu, 16 

Chdmundd, 140, 156, 175 
Charman, Charma, 12 
Chanddla, 14, 15 
Charmakara, 13 
Chaudari, 48 ; investiture, 48, 50, 

51, 52 
Christianity, and future of the 

Chamars, 239, 241 ff ; converts 

to, 238 

Churel, 69, 123, 129, 130, 142 
Concubinage, 37 
Courtyard, shape of, 117 
Criminals, 26, 27, 235 
Crow, 126, 159, 160, 166, 177 

, 214 f 
Dada Panthis, 104, 214, 215 

Dano, 123, 133 

Dasyu, 14 

Death, Chapter V., 99 ff ; ank- 
lets and bracelets broken, 100 ; 
anniversary of, 114 ; at hour of, 
99 ; at house after, 99, 100 ; 
away from home, 106 ; barring 
the ghost, 107, 114, 135 ; burn- 
ing the body, 103 ; burial of 
infants, 69 ; burial of infants 
while still alive, 69 ; bury- 
ing the body, 104 ; care of bones 
and ashes, 103, 111, 113; chief 
mourner's precautions, 107 ; 
Dadu Panth customs, 105; food 
for the dead, 108, 109, 110, 111; 
from smallpox, 106 ; hearth 
ashes, 111; KabirPanth customs, 
105, 106; laying the ghost, 114, 
135; measuring the corpse, 101; 
ninth day, 113; other feasts, 112; 
pindas, 101 ; PitarPaksh, 113 ; 
precautions if body kept over- 
night, 100, 101 ; purifying the 
house, 102 ; remains cast into 
river, 103 ; return after crema- 

tion, 106, 107 ; return of the 
dead, 109 ; Satnami customs, 
106 ; Siv Narayan customs, 
104; tenth day ceremonies, 109, 
110 ; third day ceremonies, 108; 
when procession starts, 101 
Dedication of new house, 117 
Demons, 128, 129, 234 ; and 
disease, 135, 136 ; and cattle, 

183 ; and trouble, 141 ; coercion 
of, 180; devices for scaring, 142- 
145 ; village boundary, 140 

De-wall, 119, 200 
Dhak, 123, 144 

Disease demons driven away, 182 ; 
transference of, 15, 181, 183, 

184 ; village protected from, 182 
Disparity in numbers of the sexes, 

45 ; causes, 44 
Divorce, 40 

Drums, 13, 28, 56, 77 
Diind, 133 

CCLIPSE, 62, 98, 99 
L - > Economic needs, 238, 239 
Educational programme, 232 
Endogamy, 35 ; exceptions, 35 
Environment and caste, 19 
Evil eye, 67, 146, 161 ff ; and 
children, 163; and disease, 163 ; 
and things of value, 162 ; pro- 
tection from, 164 
Exorcism, 15, 129, 181 
Exogamy, 35 

J7AIRIES, 135 

^ Female infanticide, 44 

Fetishism, 127, 128 

Fiends, 134, 160 

Five Saints, 147 

Folk remedies, a custom, 178 ; 
branding, 184 ; coercion of dis- 
ease demons, 180 ; fever, 179, 
180; for cattle, 183, 184; 
garlands, 184 ; simple remedies, 
177 ; snake-bite, 178, 179 

Food, 45 ; carrion, 22, 24, 30, 
45 ; commensality, 47 ; leavings 
of other castes, 45 ; of other 
castes, 47 ; of Mussulmans, 47 ; 



ordinary food, 45 f ; pork, 23, 
24, 45 ; women and men eat 
separately, 47 
Furriers, 56 

GAYAL, 131 
Ghasi Das, 222 
Ghlsa Panthis, 216, 219 
Got, 19, 35 ; see also Exogamy 

and Totemism 
Gorakh Nath, 149 
Guga Pir, 123, 143, 151, 152, 

170, 171 
Gurus, 202 ff ; poets and gurus, 

204 ; travelling, 202 ; worship 

of, 202, 203 

HANUMAN, 125, 154, 188, 193 
Hem Raj, 147 

Hereditary rights, 52 ff ; as field 
labourers, 53 f ; conditions chang- 
ing, 54 

Hides, 11, 22, 53, 228 ; ox-hides, 
11, 28 

Hinduism, '237, 244 ; and Cha- 
mars of to-day, 240 

Holl, 118, 174 

House building, 116 

House burning, 60 

House worship, 115 

I LLITERAC Y-ignorance, 225, 
1 230, 231 ; and environment, 

231, 232; what should be 

taught, 232, 233 
Incense, 55, 142 
Indra, 172, 199 
Infirmities, 235 
Intemperance, 45, 73, 82, 89, 90, 

95, 225 

IAGJIWAN DAS, 220, 221 
J Jinn, 135 
Julaha, 32, 33 f 

V'ABlR, 204 ff, 206, 212, 219 
*^ Kabir Panth, 105, 204 ff, 207 
K&li, 136, 154 
Kim Blr, 148, 219 
Karma, 200 

I ALGlR, 216, 218 

*- Leather, 11, 12, 13, 25, 31, 
53 ; articles of, 53, 229 ; exports 
of, 227 ; future of leather manu- 
facture, 226 ; poor quality of, 
226 ; uses of, 12, 13 ; see also 
under Charma 

Leather-worker, 13, 20, 24 

Levirate, 39, 96 

Luck, 158, 159 

MADAIN, 157 
Madiga, 31 

Magic, 15, 120, 146 ; and fascina- 
tion, 164 j amulets, 167 ; ashes, 
169 ; black, 168 ff ; charms, 167 ; 
exorcism, 179; folk remedies, 
177 ; for rain, 172 ; in agricul- 
ture, 173 f ; in medicine, 166, 

167 ; kinds of, 165 ; love charms, 

168 ; nature, of 164 ; public, 
171 ff ; power obtained, 168 ; 
sympathetic, 165, 166 ; tabus, 
171 ; to prevent hail, 173 ; well- 
digging, 176 ; works both ways, 
194 ; see also Witchcraft 

Magic symbols, 144 

Mahant, 85, 213 

Mahua, 123 

Malevolent spirits, see Demons 

Maluk Das, 215 ff 

Manu, 14, 15 

Marriage, Chapter IV., 72 ff ; 
account of gifts, 94 ; age at 
bethothal, 74; anointing, 79, 80, 
81, 83, 86; arrangements for 
betrothal, 36, 72 ; arrangements 
for wedding, 74 ; at night , 85, 
87 ; barber, 72 ; betrothal, 72, 
73 ; betrothal binding, 36, 74 ; 
bride's face washed, 91 : bride 
price, 36 ; Burha Baba, 77, 82 ; 
consummation, 38, 93 ; crown, 
83 ; departure of bride, 89, 90 ; 
doll, 95 ; double cakes, 75 ; 
early, 37, 38 ; fasting, 82 ; feasts, 
75, 77, 81, 89, 92 ; fire-sacri- 
fice, 75, 79, 87, 89, 96, 97 ; 
fixing dates, 74, 76 ; foot wash- 
ing, 85, 86, 93 ; foot worship 91, 



96 ; furnishing of pavilion, 78 ; 
gaund, 94 ; go-between, 72 ; 

froom' s procession (Bardt), 
1, 85 ; invitations, 75, 96; 
kathgand, 75 ; kardo y 96 ; koh- 
bar, 80, 83, 88, 91 ; law of, 36 ; 
lagan, 74, 76 ; magic earth, 75, 
77 ; mock, 98 ; ndch, 75, 84, 89, 
92,94; occupation and, 35; pavi- 
lion, 77, 78, 83, 85, 86, 87, 92, 
96 ; phera, 87, 88, 89, 96, 
98 ; pledge in a cup, 73 ; plow- 
beam, 78, 79, 89, 98 ; pranks, 
88, 93 ; preliminary inquiries, 
72; presents, 74, 85, 86, 90, 
91, 94; raund, 94; sagai, 
41 ; saut sal, 97 ; singing, 77 ; 
special forms, 38 ; special forms 
of widow marriage, 96, 97, 98 ;- 
struggle, or challenge, 85, 91, 
92,93; sttg<5,78; survival of 
marriage by capture, 38 ; 
square, 87 ; tests of strength, 85 ; 
throwing rice, 91 ; use of liquor, 
73, 82, 89, 90, 95; use of 
thread, 83 ; village boundary, 
93 ; village well, 84 ; visit to 
landlord, 89, 92; vulgarity, 
86, 89 ; wa\e ceremonies, 81, 
82, 84, 85, 90, 91, 94 ; widow 
marriage, 39 ; wife chosen lo- 
cally, 35 

Hasan, 132 

Masdni, 133, 137, 169 

Maids* or mothers, 136, 154, 155, 

Matriarch ate, 41 

Medals, 34 

Midwife midwifery, 22, 23, 24, 
25, 26, 30, 53, 54 f, 63, 65, 
154 ; perquisites, 54 ; supersti- 
tious practices, 55 ; unsanitary 
methods, 44, 54 f 

Minor castes that work in leather, 

Mochi, 20, 29, 30, 32, 33 f ; some 
are Chamars, 33 

Moon god ling, 198 

Moral training necessary, 232 

Mussulmans, 20, 21, 238 

KlAG PafichamI, 118, 119 
* Name giving, 68 
Nanak, 206 f 
Nat Baba, 147 
Nature gods, 198 
Nona Chamari, 26, 27, 179, 183, 

OCCUPATIONS, 16, 17, 53, 
w 56 f bookbinders, 30 ; cul- 
tivators, 25, 26, 27, 57 ; day 
labourers, 26, 57 ; dealers in 
hides, 32, 57 ; grooms, 23, 25, 
26 ; harness and saddle makers, 
26, 30 ; house servants, 26 ; 
miscellaneous jobs, 23, 27, 28, 
56, 57 ; not chiefly a tanner 
and leather worker, 57, 226 ; 
seasonal, 58 ; skinners, 29, 30, 
233 ; weavers, 25, 26, 28, 29, 33 
Omens, 159, 160 
^Opprobrious names, 163 
Outcastes, 14, 19, 20 
Owl, 126, 159, 160, 168, 177 


r Panchdyat, 47 ff ; by whom 
summoned, 50 ; Chandhari, 48 
f ; composition of, 48 ; fees, 50 ; 
fines, 51 ; importance of, 52 ; 
jurisdiction, 49; organization of, 
47; penalties, 53 ; permanent, 48; 
procedure, 49 ; when convened, 

Physical fitness, 235 

Pisdch, 132 

Polygamy, 37 

Poverty, 224 ff ; and begdr, 224 ; 
and excess and vice, 225 ; and 
small holdings, 224 ; and ignor- 
ance, 225 ; and inferior pro- 
cesses, 226 ; and over-crowding, 

Pret, 131, 132 

Puberty, 70 ; care of girls, 70, 71 ; 
initiation of boys, 70 

DAE DAS, 30, 207 ff, 212 
^ Rdja Bdsuk, 123, 15 
Rdkshds, 123, 133 



Ramananda, 204 207 

Ramanuja, 204 

Ram Ramis, 216, 219 

Religion, 236; of fear, 236; 
ignorance of, 236 ; lack of com- 
fort in, 236 ; moral outlook, 
237 ; objects sought, 236 ; see 
Animism, Demons and Benevo- 
lent Spirits 

CATNAMl, 27, 29 f, 219 ff 

Saut Sal, 168 
Shasti, 66, 67 

Shoemaker, 13, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 
29, 33 ; increasing, 229 

Shoes, 13, 56 

Shoe factories, 229 

Sltala Mdtd, 124, 136, 137, 138, 
139, 201 

Siva, 16 

Siv Narayans, 104, 2_11 ff 

Smallpox ; see Sltald Mdta, 

Snakes, 123, 124 

Snake-bite, 124, 178, 179 ; person 
bitten lives on for six months, 

Snake jewel, 134 

Social intercourse, jus primae noc- 
tisj 43; laxity, 41; lewdness, 43; 
low ideas of women, 42 ; satlok, 
43 ; sexual irregularities, 41, 
42, 43 ; struggle for a higher 
position, 47 ; with other castes, 

Social standing, 20, 232 ; and 
crime, 235 ; and disgust, 233 ; 
and food, 233 ; and religion, 
233, 234; and occupation, 233 

udra, 14, 15 

Sun godling, 198 

TABU, 127, 171 

1 Tanners, 11, 13, 23, 24, 27, 
29 ; where most numerous, 56 ; 
decreasing, 228 

Tanneries, 228 

Tanning, 11 ; tanning sections of 

Chamars lowest, 24 
Tattooing, 145 
Temples, 201 
Tenancy, 27 
Tiger, 125 
Totemism, 126, 127 
Transmigration, 200 

T TNCLEAN, 13, 14 

w Underpaid (Begdr), 55 f 

Untouchable, 13, 20, 232 

\7ETAL, 129 

v Village, Cnfmar group 
(chamrauti) , 19,20; organiza- 
tion, 13 ; outskirts, 13-, 15 


w 82, 84, 85, 90, 91, 94, 144 

Witches, 186 ; a sacrifice, 193 ; 

discovery of, 194 ; punishment 

of, 195, 196 

Witchcraft, 185 ff ; and the eating 
of human flesh, 185 ; area of in- 
fluence, 194; art is anti-religious, 
187 ; a precaution against, 197 ; 
lore how transmitted, 192 ; 
mantras, 188, 192 ; methods of, 
187, 188 ; mumiai, 186 ; and 
nakedness, 185 ; naming of 
spirits, 188 ; prophecy, 189 ; 
service of, 187 ; signs of, 185 ; 
tests of, 195 

Wizard, 69, 186 ; control many 
spirits, 192 ; mental and moral 
level, 197 ; other names of, 
186 ; other occupations, 197 ; 
powers how obtained, 190 ; 191 ; 
source of power, 190 
Worship of birds, 125 
Worship of trees, 122, 123 
Worship of stones, 121 

7 AHRA Pir, see Gugi PIr 

Printed at the Wcsleyan Mission Press, Mysore City.